Libraries: The First Information Responders.

Author:Helicher, Karl
Position::Website list

Work Title: Libraries: The First Information Responders

Work Author(s): Karl Helicher


Byline: Karl Helicher

In the weeks following the national trauma of 9/11, people turned to their public libraries to learn about the root causes of Islamic terrorism and the dangers of anthrax and other bio-terrorism threats, and to understand America's strengths and vulnerabilities in the global society. Although acts of terrorism were not new to the United States, the country was jarred by the indiscriminate murders of thousands of its citizens by al Qaeda, a well financed, shadowy terrorist organization, not defined by geographical borders. The 1990s Pax Americana era, in which America reigned supreme, if not invulnerable, as the world's only superpower, ended abruptly on that horrific day.

In the five years since, public libraries have become important sources of information on all forms of terrorism. Books on these topics have become a publishing boom market and most current information has become available electronically through a multitude of websites and subscription databases accessible to library customers on public access computers.

This article identifies some electronic websites that provide access to online resources that will meet most libraries' demands, and offers links to other sites for library users with more specialized inquiries. Also, the article offers some insights into building library collections on global terrorism, a subject area that is in high demand. Finally, a short bibliography of books recommended by scholars and practicing librarians is included.

Online references for the library

An excellent site for public libraries to link for reference on their homepages is the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism ( This site includes timely information on terrorist activities, an excellent annotated bibliography of more than 2,400 items, continuing education opportunities and conferences, and links to electronic reference sources.

The institute, located in Oklahoma City, is an enduring legacy to the 1995 Murrah Federal Building bombing. It is staffed by helpful, dedicated employees who promote its mission of understanding terrorism through information. Brad Robison, library director, claims that "public libraries can play a proactive role by bringing together community leaders, such as the police and fire chiefs, to discuss a municipality's planned response to terrorist attacks. The plan...

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