Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts; Carol A. Drost


Foreign Policy Research Institute. Access: http://www.fpri.org.

Brian Sullivan, Alfred University, sullivan@alfred.edu

The Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) is an international affairs think tank founded in 1955 that is “devoted to bringing the insights of scholarship to bear on the development of policies that advance U.S. national interests.”

Their approach is interdisciplinary and includes a strong historical emphasis. Although not obvious from the name, one of the primary focuses of FPRI is to “teach the teachers” by providing resources for secondary school educators in social studies and history.

The Web site contains a variety of materials arranged by subject, author, date, and publication type, generally going back to the mid-1990s. Materials are divided into 16 subject categories, including “Iraq,” “America at War,” “Military,” and “Latin America.” Most of the documents come from the bulletins E-Notes and Footnotes, but also include other bulletins, monographs, articles written by FPRI scholars in outside publications, transcripts and testimonies, and select articles from the journal Orbis. In addition, there is an audio/video library with recordings from FPRI events and a directory of nearly 1,000 security and international affairs think tanks. The hidden treasure buried within the site is the vast wealth of material for educators, including lesson plans and resources for teaching topics such as military history, the Middle East, and 9/11.

Although the navigation of the site is relatively straightforward, there are some limitations. For instance, there is no RSS feed. Also, the document lists (by subject, author, or date) do not indicate the type of document for each link, so the materials for educators are mixed in with scholarly journal articles and conference transcripts. The site is fully searchable, but there is no way to sort the results and no standardization of names or terms.

This leads to difficulties such as finding some documents under “Qaddafi” and others under “Khaddafi” when researching the Libyan leader. The think tank directory would be even more useful if it went beyond basic contact information and included some evaluative or descriptive details to enable sorting by political persuasion or subject emphasis.

Overall, despite its limitations, FPRI is a very good resource for teachers in social studies and history and students interested in international affairs and political science.

Peace Corps. Access: http://www.peacecorps.gov/.

Gerri Foudy, University of Maryland College Park, gfoudy@umd.edu

Since its founding in 1960, “nearly 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in 139 host countries to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation.” The Peace Corps Web site is primarily a recruiting tool, but also contains a wealth of information about the history of the corps and is a source of primary documents about the volunteers as well as the areas in which they were stationed.

Most of the historical information about the corps and its missions can be found in the “Peace Corps Digital Library,” the link for which is found under “In the Spotlight” or hidden under the “Resources for Returned Volunteers” link on the homepage. However, there is a simple search box in the upper right corner of every page, which searches the entire site. Within the Digital Library itself, users can browse the contents by material types: “Volunteer Photos,” “Volunteer Stories,” “Staff Photos,” “Staff Stories,” “Brochures,” “Newsletters,” “Speeches, Essays and Letters,” “Congressional Reports and Legislation,” “Press Briefings,” “Posters and Graphics,” and “Agency Photos.” There is a browse function through which users can literally see each image in the collection (more than 1,067 images as of September 2010).

Most researchers will want to use the advanced search feature, which allows for proximity or date relevant results and can be combined with choosing specific material types. A keyword search for “Sargent Shriver” brought back 157 results, from photographs, press releases, newsletters, brochures, speeches, etc. After doing several searches it is obvious that the digital library has documents dating back to the founding of the Peace Corps in 1960, however, the currency of the collection is unclear.

A Web 2.0 feature of the digital library is that former staff and volunteers may submit their own photographs and stories. The site has clear instructions on how to proceed. The Peace Corps site is certainly essential for anyone contemplating service, and the Digital Library is a highly useful resource for any researchers interested in the history of the Peace Corps.

Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. Access: http://www.loc.gov/pictures.

Sarah Goodwin Thiel, University of Kansas Libraries, sgthiel@ku.edu

Researchers will celebrate the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC), available through the Library of Congress (LOC). The PPOC provides friendly and easily navigable access to more than 1.2 million digitized archival images representing life in America and abroad. Files accessed through the catalog are made primarily from items found in the LOC’s Prints and Photographs Division, which houses a growing collection of more than 14 million photographs, prints, posters, and drawings from the 15th century to the present day.

The homepage of the PPOC is visually pleasing yet simple and straightforward. A small subset of collections is featured, followed by the remaining collections in alphabetical order. By clicking on “View All with Description,” each collection is again listed alphabetically but with a larger thumbnail image, a short description, and a statement telling the user whether collection items have been digitized. Collections include baseball cards, Civil War photographs, cartoons, World War I posters, and much more.

Once a collection has been selected, more descriptive information is given. The left-hand navigation menu links to collection background and scope, rights and restrictions, an opportunity to browse by creator/related names, subjects and formats, as well as a “View All” link to move directly to the digitized images from the collection.

The user has the choice of displaying images in a numerical list, through a gallery display of five thumbnails across, a grid display with ten thumbnails across, or a slide show. By clicking on the selected thumbnail, users are given the opportunity to view larger reference images. For those searching off-site, some images will display only as small thumbnails because of potential rights considerations.

The PPOC provides access to about 75 percent of the Prints and Photographs Division’s holdings. Not every item has been cataloged at the item level. In some cases a group record describing a set of related images is provided, and in other cases a guide record, describing an entire collection, is used.

For those needing assistance, the PPOC site provides links to “Ask the Prints and Photographs Librarian.”

The newly redesigned Prints and Photographs Online Catalog joins the Library of Congress’ cadre of tools, both digital and analog, providing access to its vast collections.

Copyright © American Library Association, 2010

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