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When Electric Library (elibrary) was first announced, by Infonautics, Inc.
we began using their free trail to evaluate it's usefulness for our school
library. To give context to my opinion, you my want to know that our
library currently provides (or has recently tested) the following CD based
info sets to our 7-12 students: SIRS Researcher, Super TOM+, Newsbank,
Ebsco Full Text Elite, UMI ProQuest Direct, and Broadcast News.

My Bias:
A key attribute of a library tool is how much of professional time is
required to suppport student success. The ideal tool would allow students
to independently look at the screen, enter their topic, receive a set of
relevant hits that are highly useful to them, while introducing the least
confusion. Quality tools should lessen our burdens, and therefore provide
us with more time to educate ourselves and colleagues.)

In my opinion, (after 6 months or so of heavy use) elibrary is nearly the
most useful, powerful and promising reference tool available to school
libraries. Electric Library provides the most student friendly search
engine available.

Each item returned from a search request is identified by both a relevance
score, and a reading level. These two features make elibrary far more
usable than other better known, CD based info sets available to our
students. (I have heard from the management of elibrary that a future
version will allow users to limit their searches to their own reading
level, which should also help students succeed.)

In key word mode, SIRS Researcher, for example, returns hits without regard
to their relevance to the question. If a student enters a request for
"ozone depletion", SIRS returns ALL articles which contains those words,
whether they occur in the title and opening paragraphs (likely to be highly
relevant), or the last two words in a 5000 word article. This shortcoming
causes many students to become lost/confused, and therefore ask for my
help.  Very few times did students ask for my help using elibrary, yet
according to their formerly skeptical science teacher, 100% succeeded in
the reference tasks.

Currently, elibrary is the only info tool available to school libraries
which provides both relevancy and reading level info with every hit.  These
search features of elibrary outweigh the somewhat inferior array of sources
elibrary provides, compared to some of the others.

I remain a happy customer of both SIRS researcher (whose new online
reference service is improving quickly) and Super Tom+.  Each has access to
very valuable content, and can easily improve their "search and filter"
technology to match those of elibrary.(I'm a bit surprized by the slowness
of change on SIRS and Tom, considering I suggested the relevancy and
reading level feature to both more thsn 2 years ago!)

I believe that elibrary, Electric Library, SIRS Researcher and SuperTOM+
are close to comparable in price, but because of the superior technology
elibrary provides, I encourage all school libraians with internet access to
sign up for the elib free trial.

There is a home subscription available to families for approx $10 per
month.  I've suggested it to some friends , and they've been amazed.

See the WebEd K-12 Curriculum address in my sig below.  Electric Library is
listed first on the page and can be reached by clicking.

Eager to hear other opinions from SLM people.

ALL the Best,


Bob Koechley
Director: Visual Logic Consulting, Inc.
2521 Chamberlain Ave., Madison, WI 53705
Belleville School District Librarian
101 South Grant Street
Belleville, WI 53508
WebEd k12 Curriculum Links at:

Editor of "Libraries and the Internet"   1997, Handbook Series,  Highsmith

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