Living in the past, present and future

27th June 1997 at 01:00
No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library." Had IT supplier RM's Internet for Learning service shared Samuel Johnson's dyspepsia, its Living Library would have been stillborn. As it is, the bonny infant is alive, kicking and now on offer to schools, writes Hugh John.

Living Library is an on-line reference archive drawing material from educational publishers, newspapers and selected Web sites to provide a wide range of resources.

Publications from the Oxford University Press include its School Dictionary, Dictionary of Famous People, Children's Thesaurus and Children's Book of Famous People. The principal general reference source is World Book's Multimedia Encyclopedia. (At the moment only the US edition is available, but RM hopes to have the excellent international English version on-line later in the year. ) Liris Interactive has supplied The Kingfisher Children's Encyclopedia, there are 1,500 digital images from Microsoft's Corbis Picture Library, and Helicon has contributed The Hutchinson Dictionary of Science and The Hutchinson Dictionary of History.

The limited capacity of telephone lines means that video, animation and audio material are not supplied, but these will be incorporated as soon as possible.

More than 5,000 links to the World Wide Web, indexed and categorised according to age group, are included. RM may also offer schools an Intranet model.

Users can search the entire Living Library database or its four constituent parts: Words and Meaning, People and Quotes, Recent News, and Reference. Power Search is a more advanced option.

Secondary schools with networked Internet access and a CD-Rom jukebox may feel it is cheaper to buy multimedia CDs and put them on the network. This, however, ignores the attraction of mediated, curriculum-relevant information. Neither does it take into account the cost of individual subscription.

The vast amount of on-line information now available presents its own difficulties, and many teachers will surely welcome a focused source of information, accessed via Living Library's single search engine.

Living Library is available on a free three-month trial. It is available to schoolsadvisers for the following annual subscriptions: primary single user (existing IFL subscriber) Pounds 120; primary single user (non-IFL subscriber) Pounds 180; secondary single user (existing IFL subscriber) Pounds 300; secondary single user (non-IFL subscriber) Pounds 360; networked access (existing IFL subscriber) Pounds 1,995; networked access (non-IFL subscriber) Pounds 2,495.

RM: 01235 826000

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