Reference Services and Sources
- Assistance or instruction in the use of the library, including location of materials, use of the catalog, use of computers to access information, and the use of basic reference sources.
- Assistance in identifying library materials needed to answer a question.
- Providing brief, factual answers to questions, such as addresses, statistics, phone numbers, etc. that can be quickly located.
|For information about...||Choose...|
|General information/Overview of topic||Encyclopedias|
|Names & addresses of people, organizations, institutions, companies||Directories|
|Profiles of people||Biographical Dictionaries|
|Places/Maps||Gazetteers or Atlases|
|Facts and Statistics||Almanacs|
|Formula, Tables, How-To-Do-It||Handbooks and Manuals|
|A person's work||Reviews or Criticisms|
|Dates, outlines, historical timelines||Historical tables, Chronologies, Historical yearbooks|
|Periodical Articles||Indexes or Abstracts|
|Books and other sources||Bibliographies or Guides to Literature...|
Types of Reference Tools
- General dictionaries are the most familiar to us. You may even own one. This group includes Webster's International Dictionary, the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, and the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. These sources generally provide definitions, pronunciations, syllabication, and usage.
- Historical dictionaries provide the history of a word from its introduction into the language to the present. The Oxford English Dictionary is an excellent example of this type of dictionary.
- Etymological dictionaries are dictionaries which emphasize the anaylsis of components of words and their cognates in other languages. These dictionaries emphasize the linguistic and grammatical history of the word usage. The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology is an example of an etymological dictionary.
- Period or scholarly specialized dictionaries focus on a particular place or time period. For example, try the Dictionary of Alaskan English if you would like to know when the word "cheechako" was first used.
- Foreign language dictionaries are fairly self-explanatory. We've all looked up words in a French or Spanish or other Western European language. Don't forget other wonderful dictionaries, such as the Yup'ik Eskimo Dictionary or the Inupiat Eskimo dictionary.
- Subject dictionaries focus on word definitions in a subject area, such as finance, law, botany, electronics, physics, etc.
- Other dictionaries include dictionaries of slang, abrreviations, synonyms, antonyms, abbreviations, acronyms, reversals, rhyming, idioms, phrases, and guides to correct usage. Dictionary of Acronyms and Abbreviations, The Macmillan Dictionary of Historical Slang, Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, The American Language, Strunk's Elements of Style.
- General encyclopedias usually arrange articles alphabetically by topic. Look for an accompanying index which may list cross-references to other articles. Included in this category are Encyclopaedia Britannica (29 volumes), The Cambridge Encyclopedia ,Encyclopedia Americana, and the Columbia Encyclopedia. General encyclopedia LC call numbers begin with AE.
- Subject encyclopedias are available for almost every academic discipline. They provide more in-depth and technical information than general encyclopedias. Subject encyclopedias generally assume some prior knowledge of the subject. There is no general rule for how these tools are arranged. Look for an index. A few examples of subject encyclopedias include the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology,International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Encyclopedia of World Art,Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Subject encyclopedias will have subject specific call numbers.
- General directories: Zip Code & Post Office Directory, Encyclopedia of Associations
- Subject directories: Fairbanks Phone Directory, Museums of the World, A Directory of Eskimo Artists in Sculpture and Prints , Directory of Multinationals, Federal Government Agencies Directory (Hierarchical), Thomas Register of American Manufacturers ,Scholarly Societies Project.
- General biographical dictionaries include Current Biography, Dictionary of American Biography, Who's Who, Encyclopedia of World Biography, etc.
- Subject biographical dictionaries may focus on a subject area or group. These sources include Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Contemporary Authors, Biographical Dictionary of Psychology , New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Women of Science, etc.
Gazetteers or Atlases
- Atlasescontain collections of maps. They provide information on geographical/political changes. There are world, national, and thematic atlases and these may be current or historical.
- World atlases include National Geographic Atlas of the World.
- National atlases: National Atlas of the United States, Atlas of the American Revolution.
- Thematic atlases focus on a specific subject area, such as astronomy or agriculture. Examples include, The Oxford Economic Atlas of the World and theEnvironmental Atlas of Alaska.
- Gazetteersare sometimes referred to as geographical dictionaries and provide descriptions of places, but no maps.
- General gazetteers include Webster's New Geographical Dictionary, The Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World, Gazetteer of Undersea Features, The World Gazetteer , etc.
- Regional gazetteers, such as Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, by D. Orth, focus on a specific geographical region and are good places to look if you want to know the location of a town, its population, or where its name came from.
- General almanacs include the Statistical Abstract of the United States, The New York Public Library Desk Reference, World Almanac (an American focus), Information Please Almanac (print ed. called Time Almanac), Whitaker's Almanak (United Kingdom focus).
- Subject almanacs include The Weather Almanac, The Almanac of Renewable Energy,Political Reference Almanac, Alaska Almanac, and more.
- Handbooks: Handbook of North American Indians, Guide to Alaska Trees, Words and Ideas: A Handbook for College Writing, Handbook of Mathematical Formulas, MLA Handbook For Writers of Research Papers.
- Manuals: Manual of Photography, Manual for Environmental Impact Evaluation, Alaska Craftsman Home Building Manual, United States Government Manual.
Review & Criticism Sources
- General: Book Review Digest (OCLC FirstSearch, hereafter called FirstSearch), MLA(FirstSearch), New York Times Book Review, Contemporary Literary Criticism.
- Subject: Children's Literature Review, Popular Music Record Reviews.
Historical Tables, Chronologies, Historical Yearbooks
- Historical Tables: The Timetables of History, Historical Tables, 58 BC-AD 1985.
- Chronologies: Chronology of World History, The New York Public Library Book of Chronologies, Chronology of the Expanding World, 1492-1762, A Chronology of the People's Republic of China from October 1, 1949, Annals of European Civilization, 1501-1900.
- Historical Yearbooks: The Statesman's Year-Book.
Indexes & Abstracts
- General: Reader's Guide to Periodic Index (FirstSearch), Book Review Index,Periodicals Abstracts (FirstSearch).
- Subject: Art Abstracts (FirstSearch), New York Times Index (ABI Inform), Biography Index (FirstSearch), Chemical Abstracts.
Where to find Reference Materials
- astronomy dictionaries
- astrophysics bibliography
- chemistry abstracts
- Browse the reference section. The Reference Collection at Rasmuson Library is near the Reference Desk on Level 4. The collection is arranged by Library of Congress (LC) system, starting with general encyclopedias, which can be found on the low shelves, directly behind the Ready Reference Collection. The print indexes fill several shelves on the south end.
- Ask a Reference Librarian. Ask in-person at the Reference Desk or send your question via email to Ask a Librarian. A librarian will respond to your question via e-mail.
- Refer to guides to reference materials, such as Guide to Reference Books. Balay, Robert (ed.). Chicago: American Library Association, 1996. ( Ready Reference Z 1035.1 G89 1996)
- Search the Internet. Many university web sites and Internet "virtual libraries" provide access to web reference resources. These subject directories provide access to reliable sources that have already been evaluated according to the criteria of the authors of the site. Or locate reference sources on the Web using a search engine.There are good and bad sources available via the Internet. Always evaluate your sources carefully.
Web Resources for Reference Tools
- Reference Desk - Librarian's Index to the Internet. Includes links to other information sources including almanacs, calendars, dictionaries, encyclopedias, holidays, names, phone books, and statistics.
- General Reference - WWW Virtual Library. One of the first virtual library sites, started by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of html and the web itself.
- Reference and Periodicals - Awesome Library. This virtual library provides separate indexes for teachers, kids, teens, parents, librarians and "community."
- Reference Resources - Internet Public library. Maintained by the University of Michigan. Reference works are broken into over twenty sub categories from almanacs to trivia.
- Electronic Resources: For The Reference Desk - A selective list of reference sites from the Library of Congress.
- See this linked Academic Info Digital Library site for a list of subject specific virtual libraries.
- Bartleby.com This site features full text of several reference standards, includingColumbia Encyclopedia, American Heritage Dictionary, Strunk & White's Elements of Style, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, Gray's Anatomy, Roget's Thesaurus, the World Factbook, and more.
- The Riley Guide. Career information, including preparing a resume, job listings, and links to professional organizations
- NIH Health Information. Created by the National Institutes of Health. Health Information provides links to reliable web sources on a wide range of health issues.
- Encyclopedia Smithsonian. Features answers to frequently asked questions about the Smithsonian and links to Smithsonian resources on subjects from Art to Zoology.
- E-Conflict World Encyclopedia. Country information from around the world. A resource for business, tourists, students and teachers.
- Currency Conversion. A conversion tool sponsored by Yahoo.
- Essentials of Music. A W.W. Norton. site. Includes overviews of historical periods of classical music, biographies of composers, and a dictionary of music terms.
- Mammals Species of the World (MSW). Sponsored by the Smithsonian national Museum of Natural History, this site contains the names of the 4,629 currently recognized species of mammals, in a taxonomic hierarchy that includes Order, Family, Subfamily, and Genus
- Nobel Foundation. The official site for the Nobel Prize Foundation. Includes information on all recipients, arranged by prize category.
- Online Literary Criticism Collection. The Internet Public Library Online Literary Criticism Collection contains 4689 critical and biographical web sites about authors and their works that can be browsed by author, by title, or by nationality and literary period.
- ZIP Code Look-Up and Address Information. A. U.S. Postal Service site.