Information Invigoration: The 2008 List of Outstanding Reference Sources Indicates a Renewed Interest Via Print and Online

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Gross, chair of the 2007 Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Outstanding Reference Sources Committee and electronic resources librarian for the Missouri Library Network Corporation in St. Louis, says that this year's choices for outstanding reference titles "show the fascinating and wide breadth of topics covered by recently published reference books."

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The 11 titles demonstrate the best new reference materials suitable for small and medium-sized libraries. They were compiled from a list of books forwarded to the seven-member RUSA committee by members of the division, who nominated titles in their subject areas. The committee discussed the merits of each title during the ALA Midwinter Meeting and decided which ones should be recognized as outstanding.

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Gross maintains that this year's list contains encyclopedias and dictionaries that will answer those "tried and true" reference questions in a variety of fields. At the same time, she adds, the committee saw a surge in niche titles.

"While many patrons believe the internet can answer most of their basic questions, it seems that some out there are returning to books," Gross notes.

In a continued shift, nine of the selected titles are available in some electronic form, mostly as e-books. "This is not a new trend," Gross explains, "but rather a reiteration of what libraries are already seeing, that the future of reference is electronic." Since in some cases e-book costs are negotiable, many of the following annotations do not include a price for them.

She adds that overall, the committee was pleased to see that publishers are still producing solid reference works at reasonable prices. "We look forward to what the next year has to bring."

Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, EDITED BY JEFF PRUCHER. 342 PAGES. OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS (978-0-19-530567-8), $29.95.

Based on historic principles, this dictionary uses the methods of the Oxford English Dictionary while drawing on television, movie, and print media to establish definitions and provenance for science fiction terms. The 11 one-page essays for terms and concepts that require more discussion provide users with unique insight into the sci-fi world. An excellent source for any library, the volume is highly accessible and a joy to read.

APA Dictionary of Psychology, EDITED BY GARY R. VANDENBOS. 1,024 PAGES. AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION (1-59147-380-2), $49.95.

The American Psychological Association has produced its first dictionary, 10 years in the making. The comprehensive volume includes 25,000 terms and definitions, thousands of cross-references, and four appendixes, which gather entries thematically and cover biographies; institutions, associations, and organizations; psychological therapies and interventions; and psychological tests and assessment instruments.

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The Oxford Companion to World Exploration, EDITED BY DAVID BUISSERET. 2 VOLS. 1,072 PAGES. OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS (978-0-19-514922-7; 978-0-19-530741-2 E-BOOK), $250 PRINT.

Oxford's companion takes the reader on voyages spanning not only the physical world of exploration over all time periods from ancient to modern, but also into the realm of mythological places (Atlantis) and beyond this world into outer space. More than 700 articles written by an impressive international cadre of scholars are accompanied by valuable bibliographies and highlighted with excerpts from primary sources, illustrations, and maps. Access is provided by the A-to-Z arrangement, a topical outline of entries, and an extensive index.

Postwar America: An Encyclopedia of Social, Political, Cultural, and Economic History, EDITED BY JAMES CIMENT. 4 VOLS., 1,574 PAGES. M. E. SHARPE (978-0-76568067-9), $399.

The dynamic panorama of postwar America from the end of the second World War to the Iraq War is captured in more than 550 entries and sidebars covering major events and general topics, including the Vietnam War and health care, to lesser-known events and specific topics, such as the payola scandal and disco. …