Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Shunned Cambodian War Amputees Build Home, Future Together

I am catching up on my newspapers and just found an article that would be of interest to many people who read First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung. Readers of that book might wonder how veterans from the opposing forces in Cambodia’s civil war could ever reconcile and live together after all of the attrocities. Some have. On page 4 of section 1 of the Friday, May 27, 2005 issue of the Chicago Tribune (Near West Edition) is an article by Ker Munthit of the Associated Press, which the newspaper has titled “Shunned Cambodian war amputees build home, future together.” The correspondent reports about Veal Thom, a village where men and women who lost limbs in the wars now live and work side-by-side, bonded by their disabilities. It is an inspiring story.

As a blogger and librarian, I wondered how best to direct readers to the article. All the pertinent data for placing a photocopy request is in the paragraph above, but many people reading a blog will not want to go to the nearest library and place a request. Linking to the Chicago Tribune website is not a good option either because few people will want to pay $2.95 to read the article. So I decided to see if the article could be found through subscription databases commonly found at libraries and on their websites.

Ker Munthit’s article ran in the Chicago Tribune, but he is identified as a reporter for the Associated Press. I thought it likely the article ran in other newspapers and would be easy to find through databases. I was wrong. I looked in Ebsco’s Newspaper Sources and MasterFile Elite; FirstSearch’s Articles First, Periodical Abstracts, and Wilson Select; Infotrac’s General Reference Center Gold; Proquest’s National Newspapers; the New York Times; and SIRS Researcher. I found a handful of stories (mostly from the 1990s) about the continuing danger of land mines in Cambodia, but I did not find the Veal Thom article. Perhaps the story is too new to appear. Some sources insist that their articles not appear in databases right away.

So I turned to the World Wide Web at large. I typed Cambodia amputees “Veal Thom” into the Google search box and pressed “enter.” Eureka! Many websites have posted the full text of the article. The article did run in other newspapers, and some people and organizations have copied the text onto their blogs. I am still not sure which link is best to provide, as newspapers do not keep articles on their free pages for long. The unauthorized versions on blogs might be longer lasting. I am choosing Yahoo News with the hope that the link will last long enough.

I would not want to draw too many conclusions about using subscription databases from this one example. It would be easy to say that our libraries do not need to shell out so much money for the subscriptions, but the databases are more stable than the web at large. We need to keep them. We also need to look beyond them.

The Google search pointed me to some other resources. More information about Veal Thom and its people can be found at the World Rehabilitation Fund website.

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