Monday, March 21, 2005

Creating a Pathfinder on Terrorism Topics

One of my duties as an Instruction Librarian is to create educational materials for my students and the university community. The Freshman Composition classes happen to be one of our biggest clients in terms of library instruction. Their research papers are often based on current topics or social issues; the classes often have readers like Censored 2004 or Race, Class and Gender. When I get quite a few requests for library instruction geared to a particular topic, I say to myself it is time to create a pathfinder for it, a resource that will provide students with a guide to resources the library has available on their topic as well as ways to find information. Since I have done a few Bibliographic Instruction (BI) sessions where the students are writing on some topic about the war on terror, I figure it is time we make a resource to assist them further.

The topic at first sounds easy enough. After all, you can't turn the news on TV or read an online news source without coming across it, right? Well yes, but the War on Terror may seem like a simple topic, yet it has all sorts of ramifications. For example, do students just want information about the war in Iraq? That topic itself could take one pathfinder. Do they want information on September 11 and on Homeland Security (the agency as well as the idea of securing the homeland)? What about other areas of the world such as Afghanistan? North Korea? Iran? The more I think about it, the more complicated it can get. However, I have learned by now not to make things more complicated than they have to be. Most of the students working on those topics are interested in the situation in Iraq now, so I will likely focus my attention on that area. If I do that, we can provide some background information on the country itself, books on U.S. policies and practices for the area, information on the current situation, etc. Pathfinders often include websites, which a librarian like me will take the time to at least look over and evaluate before including them. And from an initial search, I see there are many choices. As for books, we actually have some pretty good holdings in our collection.

Another option may be to make a more general pathfinder on the topic of terrorism and maybe a smaller specific one on the war in Iraq. I think there is a lot of good information available that students and patrons should know about. But we'll see. For now, I needed to bounce some ideas, and this place seemed a good place to do so. Now that I have some ideas, I think I can get back to actually making the pathfinder.

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