The Internet is the biggest library in the world. The bad news is that it's not nearly as easy to use as your school library, where all the books are neatly arranged by library monitors.
So where do you start? The most important thing is to ask the right questions.
Mrs Smith's class at Sunnyside primary has been finding some of the surprises and snags that the Internet has in store. They've already done some of the searches on this page. Try them and see what happens.
* Go to the search site at www.altavista.com
* In the Search box type "volcanoes".
* How many web pages about volcanoes has the search engine found for you?
* Can you find something to search for that will result in even more web pages being found?
* Now type "active volcanoes" in the Search box.
* Are there more or fewer documents?
* Why is this?
* Can you think of a way to further increase or reduce the number of pages found?
* What happens if you type your search as a question?
* Try this: How many volcanoes are there in Japan?
* If you were surprised at the result, then try doing the same thing at this site: www.ajkids.com or at www.yahooligans.com.
Mrs Smith asked her pupils to practise their searching skills finding websites for the following subjects as quickly as they could:
* A countdown clock to the millennium
* Sutton-on-Sea county primary school's website
* A recipe for ice cream
* Today's weather forecast for the British Isles
How quickly did you find them?
* Spelling is important. If you spell a word incorrectly, the search site will not know what you mean.
* The more exact and careful your question, the more likely you are to get the information you want.
ON THE SHELF
Libraries have been with us since the times of the ancients - the first public library was opened inAthens in the fourth century BC.
One of the most famous librariesin history was the Mouseion at Alexandria in Egypt. In 40 BC, Mark Antony gave 200,000 scrolls from the library at Pergamum, in Asia Minor, to Cleopatra to make the Mouseion the biggest library on Earth at the time. This library was ransacked three times between about 269 and 640, when it was finally destroyed.
Nowadays, libraries may not see such warlike activity, but their books are deteriorating because of the acid used in paper since the 1850s. This means that a modern library, such as The British Library, which has a collection of more than 150 million items (some 15 million of them books), is faced with a huge task of preservation.
Some libraries now use microfilm and CD-ROMs to store information and make it easier for the public to read valuable documents.
What are the arguments for and against using CD-Roms and microfilm instead of books?
Do books have any advantages over computers? If so, what?
Website search: The British Library website at http:www.bl.uk includes catalogues, reading rooms and general information.