The gallant Internet Public Library (http://www.ipl.org), a generous service to the world from the University of Michigan's School of Information and Library Studies, has received solid support funding for the first time from an outside source. Bell & Howell Information and Learning (http://www.bellhowell.infolearning.com) has announced it will provide both financial support over a 3-year period and access to key products such as its ProQuest digital collection of full-text, full-image articles.
The Internet Public Library was established in 1995 as a library project for students at the School of Information and Library Studies at the University of Michigan. Since then the project has grown into a major virtual library service. Its goal is to provide library services to the Internet community, to learn and teach what librarians have to contribute in a digital environment, to promote librarianship and the importance of libraries, and to share interesting ideas and techniques with other librarians. IPL maintains a collection of online ready-reference works, links to Web resources, and space for exhibits, and it conducts ongoing evaluation and categorization of Internet resources. It also supplies an active, personal reference service on a limited basis. IPL relies on students and volunteer librarians from around the world. Over 7 million people from more than 100 countries have visited the site.
"[The IPL's] objectives are so in sync with our corporate mission, it seemed only natural for us to support the IPL in a significant way," said Joseph Reynolds, president and CEO of Bell & Howell Information and Learning (formerly UMI). Over the next three years, Bell & Howell Information and Learning's support for the Internet Public Library will total $450,000. According to David Carter, director of IPL, the funding came without strings. IPL plans to use it to support base operations. In the past it has used grant funding to support its full-time paid staff. Carter indicates that this also frees it to seek other funding for special projects and new services.
The arrangement with Bell & Howell Information and Learning will also allow IPL's reference librarians to use ProQuest material in answering questions. Reynolds stated, "With the emergence of ProQuest as a leading Internet resource for information, we are committed to the principles embraced by the IPL. We recognize that the Internet sorely needs public resources to help organize and create quality information. We are pleased to be associated with the IPL and look forward to working together over the next few years to provide valuable services for the library and Internet communities." According to Carter, IPL will not offer a direct link to ProQuest to customers over its Web site, but only as an aid to librarians doing intermediated searches for clients.
Bell & Howell Information and Learning will add some of IPL's Web links to its ProQuest collection as part of the arrangement. Bell & Howell staff will also gather some useful feedback to help them better understand the needs of a different type of user than their typical one, so they can develop products and services to suit those needs.