New Crisis Informatics Course Offered at SJSU SLIS


Dr. Christine Hagar

Most people flee from disasters. But Dr. Christine Hagar, assistant professor at the San José State University School of Information, spends her time studying them. She examines natural disasters and pandemic disease outbreaks. By studying how we respond to crises, Hagar hopes to finds ways to improve future disaster preparedness and response. And she shares her knowledge with students in a new Crisis/Disaster Health Informatics course, offered to SJSU information school students for the first time in spring 2013.

The Crisis/Disaster Health Informatics course prepares information professionals to be key players in disaster preparedness and response. In the new course, students learn about the many perspectives of crisis information management during health crises, including information needs and information seeking, information systems, crisis mapping, and information dissemination. They also learn the multiple roles that libraries and information professionals can play during a disaster.

Margaret Campbell, a student in the information school’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, was among the first students to take the new course. One of her assignments involved writing a proposal to develop a community asset map. Offered as an online and physical resource in a library, the community asset map will identify and show the location of important community resources available during a crisis. 

“I learned that communities are not always aware of their own resources,” said Campbell. “The community asset map is an effective way for a library, information center, or community hub to be a leader in emergency preparedness and community education.”

Campbell said the new crisis informatics course made her more aware of how individuals from across the globe collaborate virtually to create disaster response plans. “Almost every day in the course, Dr. Hagar and students posted links to examples of these types of collaborations, helping us learn about these exciting efforts,” said Campbell.

Hagar coined the term “crisis informatics” in 2006, which is broadly defined as the intersection of people, organizations, information, and technologies during crises. She edited a book on the topic, “Crisis Information Management: Communication and Technologies,” which was published in 2012.

Hagar developed the new course because she wants future information professionals to play key roles in the management of information during crises. She also hopes that libraries will be part of the emergency management conversation.

Hagar has traveled the globe, studying disasters, teaching librarians, and developing consumer information resources. Hagar said she is pursuing this line of research because she enjoys working with practitioners and researchers from diverse disciplines, finding ways to improve how communities can prepare for and respond to disasters. “I hope students in my new course will share my excitement about crisis informatics,” said Hagar.

Related Content

  • Blog post by Dr. Christine Hagar regarding how public libraries can get more involved in community-wide disaster planning.