Alchemical Thoughts

List of pathfinder and guide topics

Posted on: November 27, 2007

This is pretty much a transcript of a handwritten list I had made when I was working back in Houston. These were materials that I wanted to create, but that I never got around to doing. Time was always a big issue for one. I was also debating on format: would I make some handouts? Even though some librarians advocate that we should do pathfinders as wikis, back then, a good number of students still wanted handouts. Now, making a few handouts would not preclude having a wiki or an online guide of some kind as well. Often, materials I did make got put up as PDF files. Yes, I know, a PDF does not lend itself to easy editing, but at the time, we wanted something that was in one place, easy to find and then to print (ok, mostly easy to print).

At any rate, I am thinking about this again as we look at our own subject guides here in Tyler. Wikis have been mentioned as a possibility, and there is some support for that. For now, I don't want to lose the list so I am putting it here, with some comments I made when I wrote it.


  • Types of periodicals. This is the perennial academic versus popular periodicals item. Our Interlibrary Loan Librarian back then had found a nice online handout that did this, which we often provided to students by printing a few copies when in a pinch. I always wanted to modify it, add some things, and basically create our version.
  • A pathfinder on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. This was a popular choice for a good number of the ENG 1302 classes for a while.
  • Labor history. This would have been to match a unit of wealth and labor that some ENG 1302 classes were doing. I was going to start it based on a small list of resources I had made for BI sessions that dealt with this topic.
  • How to Find Company Information. This was optional and low on my list of priorities since much of the information was covered on another larger handout we had for a business class. I think I envisioned a smaller focused item for casual users.
  • Texas authors (available at our library). This was a pet topic for one of my supervisors. Self-explanatory.
  • For the reading classes, as well as for recreational readers, a good fiction list and a nonfiction list. This was more for readers' advisory in addition to solving for when students in the reading classes came in asking for "a good book to read." I did get started on some lists, but I never got the time to finish them for public consumption.
  • Some kind of pathfinder or handout on finding information on a controversial/current/hot topic. This is also kind of self-explanatory. Clearly for the basic composition classes. In a small measure, this is what I tried to do when I wrote a post highlighting books about controversial topics in the resource blog. As I sit here and have a moment to think it over, maybe making more small posts like that one on a reference blog might be an option to address some needs.
  • How to research film. This was initially something optional. The idea was to explain how to find criticism and information about film.
  • How to read an academic article. Back then, I had a substantial number of students who had reading difficulties, both when it came to reading an academic article, and just reading in general. I still want to write this one, likely as a blog post.
  • Local/Houston Sources Guide/Pathfinder. We had a very old list, which needed to be updated. Include Harris County as well. (We could certainly do something here as well, a Tyler guide. We have some links, but something nicer and tighter would be nice).
  • Finding literary criticism. Both author information and information on literary works. Where I work now, we have a very small handout. There is a subject area for Literature and Languages, but no guides or pathfinders. This would need some work. I have seen enough requests for this at the desk.
  • Texas history books. This was for a class on Texas history where they have to read some nonfiction book on the topic. I wanted to have handy a good list of what we had so we could simply refer the students to it. This may have been more for us, internal use. We needed something similar for U.S. History (same teacher). We had made a draft of the list after actually generating a large list out of the library catalog. The challenge was to make it manageable. On a side note, we have a class here that asks for books on Texas politics. Similar conundrum.
  • Finding and using government information. This was on my optional list, but I saw it as important. I am a believer in the power of being able to find and use government information. This also includes documents from nonprofits, organizations, and think tanks. One of the things I used to do with the resource blog was link to various resources in govdocs when I saw they could be relevant to student topics.
  • Evaluating web resources. I just wanted a better guide than the one we had. I think it may be useful to make a new one here. I may have to check with the Instruction Librarian; she may have something already.
  • A cheat sheet for what happens when an article is not full-text on a database. It seems we will always need this.
  • Career reference information. For this, I wanted to make it in conjunction with the campus career center. This would have gone along with something about college information resources.
  • Resources in education. In here, now that I am liaison to the College of Education, I need to get on it.
  • Resources in Spanish. This was to promote the Spanish books we were purchasing both for literary and pleasure reading as well as for classes. I am noticing we don't have much of this here either. However, given the poor budget situation, I don't see myself able to start a Spanish reading collection any time soon.
  • A better LC call number sheet.

I also had the idea of checking the basic composition textbook, particularly Censored, for topic ideas. Also I wanted to make some  guides for specific books classes were using. For example, one class was using Fast Food Nation, so I would have made a guide for resources on topics related to that book: the food industry, health, so on.

Yes, I am aware this was an ambitious list. My intention was to get to them one at a time as time allowed, but very often I lacked time given my teaching load. While I have no regrets per se, I do wonder what if I had a bit more time. At any rate, some of these ideas are things I can do here.

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November 2007
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