Global net library planned


Six of the world\'s leading educational and cultural institutions announced today that they will create Fathom, a new company formed to launch the premier site for knowledge and education on the web. Fathom will present the best public content and courses of universities, libraries, and museums on a wide variety of professional, cultural, and academic subjects. The consortium\'s website,, will introduce the first home for authenticated knowledge on the Internet, serving a worldwide audience of business and individual users.

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More Than Distance Learning: A \"Main Street\" for Knowledge and Education
\"Fathom is far more than another distance learning site,\" said Dr. Kirschner. \"We are creating a vibrant \'main street\' for knowledge and education. We intend to go beyond the current limits of information sites scattered across the web and also go beyond online initiatives from individual schools.\"
\"Today, most initiatives by educational institutions are focused on courses,\" she continued. \"Courses are important, and courses for distance learning will be one of the offerings provided by some partners through Fathom. But learning is not limited to the classroom, and the many other types of content provided through Fathom will provide a more complete and accessible context for knowledge. We believe that Fathom will define the transformation of the online learning category into a broader interactive knowledge marketplace,\" Dr. Kirschner said.
Fathom will include a comprehensive directory of related online courses offered by universities and cultural institutions, plus textbooks and other academic titles, specialized periodicals, individual articles and other publications, CD-ROMs, academic travel, and learning resources. Users will access online courses through Fathom, with tuition fees, accreditation, and admission policies set at the discretion of the offering university or cultural institution.

Wide Range of Subjects and Tools for Learning

Central to Fathom will be a wealth of free content usually only available on university campuses and at leading museums and libraries. This content will include multimedia lectures, seminars, databases, publications, and performances. Working directly with the prominent faculty and curators of these institutions, Fathom will cover a wide range of subjects such as business, law, economics, social sciences, medicine, computer science and technology, the arts, journalism, and physics.
Fathom users will explore topics of interest to them professionally and personally. They will have the opportunity to interact and collaborate with the leading experts in their field. Fathom\'s unique architecture will provide a powerful \"search and explore capability\" that will allow users to follow their interests, independently or with expert guidance, across the widest possible range of subjects.

Extensive Content, Highest Standards\"Fathom reaffirms the founding principles of the Internet,\" said Dr. Kirschner. \"By providing global access to these resources, Fathom holds the promise of knowledge without boundaries and offers a new medium for the exchange of ideas. It points ahead to a future where the acquisition and application of knowledge can be independent of economic status, time constraints, and geographic location. Fathom and its partners are committed to creating a dynamic home for knowledge.\"

All Fathom original content will be authenticated, meaning that the knowledge will be attributed to the appropriate educational or cultural institution and its faculty or professional staff. Fathom\'s standards of academic and editorial integrity will be monitored by the Fathom Academic Council, a panel of selected senior faculty and curators from participating institutions, which will be chaired by Jonathan Cole, Ph.D., Provost and Dean of Faculties, Columbia University.

Examples of Fathom content currently in development include:

  • An oral history research project that includes 7,000 in-depth personal interviews, conducted over 50 years, with leaders from business, politics, and the arts, including, Frank Lloyd Wright, Dorothy Parker, Nikita Khrushchev, and Jimmy Stewart (from Columbia University);
  • Excerpts from the field journals of a preeminent anthropologist of the 20th century, William Duncan Strong (1899-1962) (from the Smithsonian Institution\'s National Anthropological Archives at the National Museum of Natural History);
  • An overview of the provocative new science of astrobiology, which brings together molecular life sciences, space exploration, planetary science and the search for extraterrestrials, by astronomer and editor Dr. Simon Mitton (from Cambridge University Press);
  • A talk on \"The Weightless Economy,\" the shift from a world of manufacturing to a world of weightless services, by economist Professor Danny Quah (from the London School of Economics and Political Science);
  • Multimedia presentations that bring to life treasured objects, from the Magna Carta to the Lindisfarne Gospels (from the British Library);
  • A collection of over 54,000 photographic views of New York City that mark the development of the city, its architectural achievements, transportation system, and ethnic and cultural diversity (from The New York Public Library).

Strong Business Model To Create Category Leader
Developed by top universities, Fathom will be the leading online destination for high-quality knowledge and education, a rapidly growing marketplace.
Significant growth in online education is expected over the next few years. According to IDC, the size of the U.S. market for distance learning is already $2 billion and is projected to be $6 billion in 2002 and $9 billion by 2003, a growing component of the $750 billion higher education market in the U.S. alone. Enrollment in online programs is expected to increase at an annual rate of 30-35 percent.
\"The fit between the Fathom business model, the vast intellectual capital of the founding partners, and the talented management team in place at Fathom is exactly what you want to see when forging a vibrant new space on the Internet,\" said Michael M. Crow, Ph.D., Columbia University Executive Vice Provost. \"We see an enormous need developing for this new interactive knowledge category. Fathom will meet that need with a combination of the technology we have developed and the best possible content provided by our distinguished partners.\"
In addition to Dr. Crow and Dr. Kirschner, Fathom\'s international board of directors will include former chairman of Goldman Sachs Stephen Friedman, commissioner of the National Basketball Association David Stern, chairman of Enterprise LSE and former director of Shell International Keith Mackrell, and chairman and CEO of MBNA Corporation Alfred Lerner.

Igniting the Desire for Knowledge
\"Fathom embraces the principles upon which the great learning institutions of the world were founded-to create a community where ideas flourish, to stimulate intellectual curiosity, and to aid in professional development. Fathom will harness the power of the Internet to enhance the learning experience while upholding the highest professional and scholarly standards,\" Dr. Kirschner said.

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