The impetus for the task force grew out of the 1992 Bibliographic Instruction Section conference program, a 15th anniversary celebration of the Section's history. To commemorate this milestone, the Program Planning Committee created a slide show, "The BI Knowledge Base: A Brief Retrospective." After the conference, several colleagues suggested making the slide show available on video. In 1993 Sharon Mader submitted an ACRL Initiative Grant Proposal developed by Beth Sandore and Mary Jane Petrowski requesting $2,500 to develop a video production. Although the request was not funded, a Video Task Force was formed at Annual 1993 and charged with exploring other funding and development options.
For two years the Task Force researched video production, grant opportunities, and wrestled with definitions of the knowledge base. At the 1995 Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia we discovered that the Association of Research Libraries had conceived a similar project that floundered because of cost and lack of concept. We were sobered and decided that a video production was not feasible. However, the emergence of graphical web browsers and the explosion of web development in 1994 afforded the Task Force a cheaper, easier way to distribute "the knowledge base" in all of its multimedia glory. Not all task force members had access to the World Wide Web in 1994, but the early adopters in the group argued for switching the delivery platform from 80s technology (video) to 90s technology (Internet). The task force name change in mid-1994 reflected a new emphasis on content rather than format.
In late 1994 Mary Jane Petrowski, Randy Burke Hensley, and Beth Sandore drafted a second ACRL Initiative Grant Proposal titled "Linking People to Ideas: Transforming the BI Knowledge Base into a Web Resource for the World." The proposal argued that the "Knowledge Base project will highlight significant contributions of academic librarians to developing an important body of knowledge on teaching and learning in academic libraries" and "demonstrate how this new form of communication can transcend the usual barriers to information imposed by space, time, and cost." The project narrative states:
"Instruction has become an important part of the mission of today's academic library. The production of a web page will enable the Section to chronicle the pioneering efforts of academic librarians whose work has defined instruction as a discipline and to illustrate in a compelling way how the development of the Section has fostered individual efforts...The project will build upon the considerable research already invested in the slide show and offer a more flexible, dynamic, and cost-effective solution...Multimedia web capabilities will enable us to fully incorporate and link audio, video, and graphic material from the ALA Archives at the University of Illinois into one virtual resource."
At the 1995 ALA Annual Advisory Council meeting, Katherine Branch announced that twelve proposals had been submitted and the Instruction Section proposal was the only one to be approved with full funding. By mid-1995 Task Force members succeeded in digitizing the slide show and continued to think through the oral history project centered around the Dudley Award winners. In early 1996 a conceptual breakthrough took place that allowed the task force to re-conceive the knowledge base in new ways. Rather than attempting to define and interpret the knowledge base "for all time," we decided that it was first necessary to recover and recreate the knowledge base in all its manifestations. It took the Task Force six months to uncover and establish the intellectual life of the Section represented by Section publications, conferences, awards, personal and organizational histories. We also wanted to showcase the CNI/IS Internet training web site as an example of the knowledge base of the future. We rest here, hoping that the Section connections, influences, and contributions depicted here can be more clearly seen, appreciated, and further extended by both old and new members of the instruction community.