Magazine article Information Today

High-Tech Information Lab Opens at Library of Congress

Magazine article Information Today

High-Tech Information Lab Opens at Library of Congress

Article excerpt

It didn't take a battle of Jericho to make the Library of Congress' (LC) walls come a-tumblin' down. The coming together of multimedia, interactive technology, LC's intense interest, and industry support will perhaps turn the vision of the library without walls into reality.

On March 26, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington unveiled a new multimillion dollar demonstration center for multimedia information and educational technologies. The center occupies the 6,000 square foot atrium in LC's James Madison Memorial Building. The National Demonstration Laboratory for Interactive Information Technologies (NDL) is expected to play a major role in fulfilling LC's plans to make its collections more widely available and accessible. The center, a demonstration of public-private enterprise, is supported entirely by private funds. It opened to the public, by appointment only, on April 1.

Reaching People Everywhere

The NDL holds forth the promise of connecting the treasures of the collection of the LC to the country and indeed, the world, and making them available through interactive technology. A broader goal is based on Jeffersonian philosophy, that democracy must be knowledge-based if the people are to act responsibly and creatively, said Dr. Billington.

LC already has several projects in test stage. One is the American Memory Project, which was the Library's first significant move to use advanced optical-disk storage methods to put Library collections in a form that could be transmitted rapidly across the country. The program is a multimedia research tool developed to make certain Library collections available on computer systems to selected schools and libraries in the country.

In another project, the entire bibliographic database of the LC is available to 27 state libraries on a test basis. There is also a plan to make available through electronic yellow pages a list of STI (scientific and technical information) clearinghouses that will be accessible everywhere in the U.S. for people to tap into locally.

What's in the NDL?

More than 200 examples of the latest innovations in interactive video and computer learning and presentation systems are available for demonstration, study and use. Examples include a virtual reality system which transports the user into an interactive video environment, a talking audio-visual mannequin, and a voice-activated "video patient" for teaching diagnostic techniques to medical students. Multimedia projects are available on a wide variety of subjects including math, science, foreign languages, medicine, art, history, social science, and management training.

Who Comes to the NDL?

The kinds of people who come to the NDL, explained Jacqueline Hess, the NDL's director, are students, educators, and the casually curious. About half are connected with education--librarians, trainers, teachers; about one-fourth are from government who are interested in training; and about one-fourth are from around the world who like to see the best of what's available.

Two demos are offered daily to help people learn the technology, which is the first step into the learning process. Four levels of interactivity are available: Level I includes a laser disc player plust TV or A/V monitor; Level II is a laser disc player with internal manual programming capability and TV or A/V monitor; Level III is a laser disc player plus computer plus interactive software plus A/V monitor, as defined by Pioneer; Level IV is an all-digital environment.

The objective is to give users several ways to evaluate what they see; for example, the utility of a product and the technology, benefits of the program, the branching, the intuitiveness of a system, linear vs. nonlinear programs, and whether the system contains a remediation strand.

Joint Projects Underway

With GTE, NDL is testing the high speed transmission over fiber optic networks of computer software stored LC collections. …

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