Extending the School Library Collection ... Electronically. (Info Tech)

By Clyde, Anne | Teacher Librarian, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Extending the School Library Collection ... Electronically. (Info Tech)


Clyde, Anne, Teacher Librarian


In today's information-rich world, it has become accepted that no library collection can contain all the information that its users are likely to need. This is as true of school libraries as it is of academic and research libraries or public libraries. However, libraries of all kinds do have an obligation to meet as many of the information needs of their users as possible.

One way of extending the school library collection to meet more of those user needs is to provide access to free information on the Internet. Another is to provide access to commercial online information services for which the school library usually (but not always) pays a subscription. Both are important and tend to complement each other in a school setting. However, one advantage of commercial online services over the Internet is that in most instances the information sources included have been evaluated for quality and indexed for better access.

Online information services come in many different forms. Some are "commercial" or fee-based; some are flee. Confusingly, there may be a subscription version and a free version of the one database. Some online information services are "aggregators" -- they take database products (or even parts of databases) created by other companies or organizations, and put them together into a new format for a new market. For example, they might acquire the rights to a collection of current news databases and then repackage them into a format that can be used by schools. Sometimes the same database will be made available through different online information services, and it may look different (and be searched differently) on the various online services. In addition, there are other databases, like library catalogs, union catalogs and databases created by United States government agencies, that are available without restriction or cost on the Web, but which may also be available on commercial online information services. The online information services discussed in this article are primarily commercial online information services.

Commercial online information services provide search access via the Internet to databases and other information sources and services. Generally, the library pays a monthly or annual fee. This might be a flat fee, a fee based on the number of potential users or on the number of terminals from which the service will be accessed, or some other measure of use. When the school library subscribes to one or more of these services, search access is usually made available to users via a link on a web page or via the school library web site. This link might be available only within the library or the school. However, many of these services allow school libraries to provide search access from home for teachers and/or students (usually for an additional fee). This access from outside the school may require a username and password, which the teacher-librarian distributes to teachers and students.

Where once these commercial online information services were aimed mostly at university and research libraries, today there are many commercial online information services with products designed for schools. These products might be a single database (for example, an online encyclopedia), a collection of databases or a collection of material brought together from different databases. Some of the databases have bibliographic information, but many are full-text. Databases may include standard reference works (encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases), newspaper and magazine articles, government documents, collections of photographs and other materials.

Following are some of the commercial online information services being used by school libraries today (based on a survey of school library web sites carried out by the author in 2000):

* EBSCOhost http://www.epnet.com/ Full-text and other databases and services provided for schools include Books in Print, MAS Ultra School Edition (magazine articles and other resources), Newspaper Source, Computer Source, World Book Encyclopedia, ERIC. …

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Extending the School Library Collection ... Electronically. (Info Tech)
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