'For many years all that could be seen of the new British Library was the building site through a hole in the boards thoughtfully created by the builders, knowing how fascinating most of us find the creation of a large building,' writes the development team for the new National Electronic Library for Health.
But while there are good reasons to keep readers off the building site of a bricks-and-mortar library until it is completed, the team argues that users 'can, should and will' be involved in the construction of the virtual NELH. Its aim is to make it 'one of the great libraries of the world' - with links to the Bodleian and UNESCO's website on the ancient library at Alexandria to give some idea of the scope of its ambition.
Arranged on four 'floors', the library will develop as a series of partnerships. Patient and public information will come together with a number of bodies, including NHS Direct; the know-how floor with the National Institute for Clinical Excellence; the knowledge floor with the 'healthcare library community'; and the knowledge management floor with education programmes and medical informatics bodies.
So far, the NELH has yet to fulfil its vague if ambitious objectives of 'providing easy access to best current knowledge and improving health and healthcare, clinical practice and patient choice' - despite an autumn 1999 deadline to get something going on primary care - but it does have a five-year plan, and its sense of history and off-beat eloquence is a relief from the usual turgid and single-minded prose.
One might turn for the big picture to the NHS Information Authority. One wouldn't get it. Though its site offers updates on individual programmes, it appears to have nothing to say about the overall strategy or even about the authority itself. Even the Department of Health information policy unit, which commissions its work, is more communicative.
These and other sites of interest can be reached via HSJ 's website at www.hsj.co.uk