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Drexel University to Transform Internet Public Library Into Virtual Learning Lab

August 21, 2007

Drexel University to Transform Internet Public Library Into Virtual Learning Lab
Drexel will collaborate with the University of Michigan and Florida State University to transform the Internet Public Library (IPL) into a virtual teaching and learning laboratory for digital reference.

The project will help librarians and students in programs in library and information science keep up with the new technological developments in digital reference services. Increasingly, library patrons seek information around the clock via personal digital assistants, cell phone text messaging and online virtual environments.

Drexel received more than $600,000 in grant funding as part of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grant, which will run through June 2010. The iSchool at Drexel—College of Information Science and Technology—has hosted the IPL since January 2007. The site receives 12 million hits a month, with 1.5 million unique visitors.

Launched in 1995, the IPL hosts an e-mail question-and-answer service and provides access to collections, which include exhibits and resources on a variety of subjects with Web links. The site’s forum for teaching and learning provides hands-on digital librarianship experience for library and information science students.

The grant will be used to develop and disseminate digital reference curricula, establish an online learning community to support the IPL and design and determine the feasibility of a technological training center for digital librarianship.

“This grant assures the IPL will continue to explore the expanding public service and educational potential of digital libraries,” said Dr. David E. Fenske, dean of the iSchool, the college at Drexel that educates information science and librarianship students.

Ultimately, the project will extend IPL training and education opportunities to all 49 American Library Association-accredited library and information science programs.

Dr. Eileen Abels and Dr. Denise Agosto, professors in the College of Information Science and Technology will serve as principal investigator (PI) and Co-PI on the project.

“The IPL is a valuable public resource and teaching tool,” Abels says. “The IMLS grant means that more library and information science students will receive hands-on digital library experience and more faculty members will be able to collaborate on new projects in the area of digital reference. An added bonus is that the IPL’s collections and question-answering service will provide authoritative information to more people around the world.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.imls.gov.

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News media contact: Brian Rossiter, Drexel News Bureau 215-895-2705, 267-228-5599 (cell) or brian.rossiter@drexel.edu

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