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Staff Feature- Sherry Lochhaas' develops a Religious Studies Portal

The Religious Studies Portal began as a volunteer project of Sherry Lochhaas during the summer of 2010. A University of Iowa Graduate student in the School of Library and Information Sciences, Sherry joined the WiderNet staff in December of 2009 as a Digital Librarian. With a degree in Philosophy and Religion from Truman State University, she was very interested in developing a specific portal for the eGranary Digital Library dealing with Religious Studies. On her own time she has developed an outstanding portal with several hundred websites identified and over 1,100 articles on religions around the world. While Lochhaas cannot count the number of volunteer hours she has put into the portal, she does say that “the portal provided (her) with the opportunity to stay engaged in religious studies during grad school”. In fact, since this summer, Sherry has made portal evaluation the topic of her master’s project.

The portal’s content is structured around three end uses of the information: studying, practicing, and teaching about religion. The portal contains informative documents created by people of a given religion, as well as critical pieces with the goal of creating a holistic and unbiased catalog. Topics include basic beliefs, practices, prayers and religious celebrations. The portal also includes academic focal points for those interested in studying science, history, politics, and psychology as they relate to religion.

“My goal for the portal is to acquire more information on topics that are currently less developed in the portal such as New Religious Movements and African Religions,” Sherry explains. Additionally Lochhaas would like to expand the section on religious music. Ideally Lochhaas would like to see the portal finalized and imported into the eGranary Digital Library by the time she graduates.

As part of her master’s project, Sherry has created a survey to evaluate the structure, content and functionality of the religious studies portal. The survey aims to identify what features and information people find most useful. Upon distribution and collection, Sherry plans to analyze the responses, looking for the best portal design for eGranary users. This survey will act as a building block for future eGranary portal evaluations by providing a basic set of questions to use for evaluation down the road. To take Sherry’s survey go to:

The WiderNet Project has benefitted greatly from Sherry's volunteer work. We extend a heartfelt thanks.


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