Every day reference librarians at public libraries around the country face patrons who want help changing their lives. Now Information Access Company (http://library.iacnet.com), a Thomson subsidiary, has developed packaged online solutions to help meet those needs. The LifeCenter services cover a range of career, purchasing, and lifestyle concerns with interactive, easy-to-use, step-by-step guides that research common issues such as investment strategies, automobile and consumer purchases, employment opportunities, resume writing, etc.
Working with public librarians to develop the service, IAC focused on the 10 questions most commonly posed to reference librarians. There are four modules in the initial LifeCenter product: Jobs and Careers, Personal Finance, Auto Purchases, and Consumer Purchases. Future modules will include Buying and Selling a Home, Choosing and Financing a College Education, and Health. The modules also carry links to related Web sites, regularly monitored and revised monthly. Users can take advantage of built-in worksheets, calculators, and decision-tree tools to generate customized reports such as personalized investment plans. Each module's tools differ, e.g. resume writing support in the Jobs and Careers module or the QuickShop option in the Consumer Purchases module to provide lists of products that match searcher criteria.
In developing LifeCenter packages, IAC commissioned leading experts to write proprietary articles and interactive guides and linked them to relevant articles from the thousands of newspapers, magazines, business journals, and trade press sources carried in IAC's full-text databases. Experts include Douglas R. Sease, an editor for The Wall Street Journal; Joyce Lain Kennedy, nationally syndicated columnist on employment issues for the Los Angeles Times; John Dinkel, former editor of Road and Track magazine; and Michael Lamb, contributor to National Public Radio's "Energy Matters" program.
Libraries purchase LifeCenter under subscription arrangement. Patrons can use the service at terminals in the libraries, or with validated library cards under participating sites, through the Web from home or offices. Subscriptions to the LifeCenter service, including all four modules, are $1,195 per simultaneous user, with the cost dropping to $795 for libraries that already have current subscriptions to IAC's InfoTrac databases.
To help libraries promote the service, IAC has developed posters, press release templates, and other promotional tools. The company also has a listserv for librarians managing the LifeCenter service.