Better living

Venerable online encyclopedia, Living Library, has recently been much improved, writes Hugh John

Launched in 1997, Living Library can lay claim to being the UK's first dedicated online educational service, and with material drawn from a wide selection of sources it has always been popular with teachers and students.

The service has recently been much improved, with extra content from educational publishers such as Helicon, Dorling Kindersley and the Oxford University Press, and a new interface that enables better and quicker search and navigation.

Topic-O-lator lets users enter a topic into the query box and that word becomes the centre of a web, interconnected to other resources. Click on any of these and they become the hub of a new search. It's an interesting way to look things up, and adds a random element to search results.

"Blogs", also new, is a selection of comments and articles trawled from the web: some serious (a discussion of the Chinese rule of Tibet), some humorous (flip-flops and wellies at the Glastonbury Festival) and some wacky (the tan-timer bikini that lets you know when you're roasted).

"Shortcuts" allows users to group topics into folders: a class may want to gather resources in one area where they can be easily and quickly retrieved.

The most detailed material comes from the Helicon Hutchinson library, but the depth of available information might be severely tested by an inquisitive A-level student.

RM has introduced content packs that enable schools to augment the basic service with modules suiting their needs. Living Multimedia is the first.

Living Library RM Stands E50, D50

Price: from pound;195 for whole-school membership, including unlimited access for teachers at home

Fitness for purpose ****

Ease of use ****

Features ***

Quality ****

Value for money ****

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