Well Connected

Drexel plays host to the Internet Public Library.

By Frank Rubino
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 17, 2007

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"These are librarians in training [answering the questions]," says Abels. "Real people, like you'd see at a reference desk in a library."

Real people like attorney Mitchell Silverman.

An FSU graduate student, Silverman has logged 52 hours as an IPL volunteer since May 1, and has enjoyed the work enough to convince him that his decision to switch careers was sound.

Even if he occasionally fields a question that troubles him. Like the one from the guy who sounded suspiciously like a Holocaust denier.

"I'm Jewish," Silverman says, "and this person asked something about how it could've been possible for the gas in the gas chambers to have been sufficient to kill the people inside but not those who opened the chambers afterward."

Aware of material on the Internet that addresses the issue, Silverman referred the man accordingly. But it wasn't his favorite moment as a digital-librarian-to-be.

Crosby, who hasn't had any similarly disturbing experiences, acknowledges that a few IPL visitors might pose electronic questions they'd be reluctant to ask in person.

"Still," she points out, "we really can't judge the questions. We have to answer one as respectfully as the next. In that respect we're exactly the same as any librarian at any reference desk."

Maybe that's proof that the IPL is a "real" library.

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