15_internet_reviews

Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts is associate university librarian for public services and collection development at Willamette University, email: jroberts@willamette.edu, and Carol A. Drost is associate university librarian for technical services at Willamette University, email: cdrost@willamette.edu

Electionline. Access: https://electionline.org/.

Founded in 2001, Electionline is a project of the Democracy Fund and describes itself “as the nation’s only nonpartisan, non-advocacy clearinghouse for election reform news and information.” The purpose of the site is to provide comprehensive access to “politics-free news and information about the people and processes that guide our nation’s elections.”

Electionline is a clean-looking site with these main sections: “Daily News,” “electionline Weekly,” “Elections Calendar,” “Events,” “Training & Resources,” “Jobs & Marketplace,” and “About.” The “Daily News” section lists headlines of current news stories organized primarily by state. All the headlines link to the original news story, many of which come from newspaper or other media sources. Linking to these articles can sometimes result in a paywall and the inability to read the original article. All the materials available in this section are browsable by state, topic, date, or keyword search.

“electionline Weekly” packs a wealth of professional information for election administrators. “In Focus This Week” and “Election News This Week” feature news about election administration in the United States. This section also includes links to relevant reports, legislative and legal updates, upcoming events, and links to opinion articles organized by topic.

The “Elections Calendar” page allows users to browse elections by state and includes the dates for the primary, primary runoff, general runoff, and the general election. On the “Events” page, one can explore a list of workshops, conferences, and other professional events. Another useful section is the “Training & Resources” page that pulls together various training guides, reports, online tools and training opportunities, professional materials and programs, and links to partner websites that contain additional resources.

In the “About” section, users are provided with an overall history of the organization and funding sources. Finally, the site has a section for the submission and advertisement of job postings and “for sale” items, such as voting equipment. A nice feature on the site is the option to sign up for a weekly newsletter.

The construction of the site is user-friendly, as it seamlessly consolidates and organizes disparate sources of information. Much of the information is only appropriate for its core audience: election officials and administrators. However, some sections may be helpful for journalists or engaged citizens who are interested in staying informed about voting and election reform.—Colleen Lougen, SUNY-New Paltz, lougenc@newpaltz.edu

Institute for Bio-Cultural Study of Religion. Access: http://ibcsr.org.

The Institute for Bio-Cultural Study of Religion, or IBCSR, is a branch of the Center for Mind and Culture, a nonprofit organization that employs computational models and analytics to research complex social issues. As its name states, the mission of IBSCR is to conduct research into the biological and cultural foundations of religion.

IBSCR is a membership organization ($45 annually for regular members, $35 for students) that lists two publications on its home page: IBCSR Research Review and Religion, Brain & Behavior. IBSCR Research Review is a free monthly newsletter surveying recent scholarship in the study of religion and spirituality (registration required). IBCSR provides a “searchable online database of everything ever published in the scientific study of religion.” However, access to the database is restricted to members, and hence, not readily available to reference librarians and patrons. Membership also includes a subscription to Religion, Brain & Behavior.

In its present form, IBCSR’s website serves as a publicity vehicle for the institute’s activities. Among its past activities is the “Religion and the Brain Project (2004–2006),” which explored the relation between the brain, evolution, and religion. One of its current projects is the “Quantifying Religious Experience Project,” which applies cognitive psychology to answer such questions as “What happens when a Catholic nun experiences God through contemplative prayer?” or “What happens when a Hindu feels the presence of Shiva?” Unfortunately, the answers to these questions and access to supporting research appear limited to dues-paying members.

Patrons who land on the homepage do have access to a variety of pertinent videos. “Theories of Religion” provides an overview of academic theories of religion and how they can be used to inform computer models of human cognition. “Simulating Religious Violence” uses computer simulation to analyze the roots (psychological, social, and economic) of religious terrorism.

IBCSR is not a ready-reference resource, thus public service librarians staffing the reference desk will have little opportunity to consult it. Subject specialists in theological libraries, however, may have cause to refer graduate students and professional researchers in its direction, assuming the patrons are willing to pay the membership fee.—Wendell G. Johnson, Northern Illinois University, wjohnso1@niu.edu

MentalHealth.gov. Access: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/.

Launched in 2014 by the Obama administration as part of the initiative to reduce gun violence, MentalHealth.gov offers “one-stop access to U.S. government mental health and mental health problems information” and is produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Website content is contributed by various government repositories including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute of Mental Health, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The objective of the site is to promote a dialogue in layman’s terms within communities about mental health with a broad audience ranging from the general public to community leaders.

The site is easily accessible, intuitive to navigate, and available in English and Spanish. Content is organized into four main areas covering an overview of mental health, mental health problems, suggestions for talking with individuals about mental health, and treatment resources. A search box is available for keyword searching. “Newsroom” takes visitors to SAMHSA for current news. Each page has a sidebar with links to “Immediate Help,” National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Veteran’s Crisis Line. A Treatment Locator widget on the homepage links to SAMHSA to search for treatment providers.

While the site is user-friendly and applicable to a wide audience, there are several weaknesses that limit its effectiveness. Last updated in 2017, the site has broken links throughout and provides mental health statistics from 2014 calling into doubt its currency. An oversight to the site’s content is the lack of information on autism spectrum disorder, which, according to CDC, affects 1 in 59 children. Finally, in using the Treatment Locator for my community, it was disappointing to find that the list was far from comprehensive.

MentalHealth.gov is easy to use and a valuable resource in facilitating the discussion of mental health, but should be used with caution in locating treatment providers. The site’s lack of in-depth information about mental health conditions, concerns with currency, and content geared towards the general public, limit its applicability for academic purposes. It may be a good starting point for students researching mental health, but is primarily intended as a mental health literacy tool for the community at large.—Dawn Behrend, Lenoir-Rhyne University, dawn.behrend@lr.edu

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