Outstanding Reference Sources: A 1989 Selection of Recent Titles

Article excerpt

A compilation of distinguished reference tides selected by the Reference Sources Committee of the ALA Reference and Adult Services Division

IT WAS A FULL 30 YEARS AGO that a newly constituted committee of ALA:s Reference Services Division took over the pioneering work of the great Louis Shores (1904-1981) in compiling an annual list of not-to-bemissed reference books for small and medium-sized public or academic libraries. ' Today's 10-member Reference Sources Committee, meeting at Midwinter in Washington, D.C., was proud to carry on this tradition and also to break new ground by including for the first time an outstanding CD-ROM product, Compact Disclasure (Disclosure Inc.), a powerful, easy-touse financial research tool.

Our criteria are almost unchanged from those of Louis Shores and the first committee. We consider annuals, yearbooks, and new printings of encyclopedias only when the first issue appears or there are very important revisions; new editions monographs are eligible only if significantly change Thus De Sola's new Crime Dictionary (rev. ed. Facts On File , the eagerly awaited Benet's Reader's; Encyclopedia... (3rd ed., Harper & Row), and the revised Contemporary Dramatists (4th ed., St. James PL) have been omitted; the notable Major International Treaties Since 1945.A History and Guide with Texts (Methuen) does not appear on this list because it is really a continuation of The Major International Treaties, 1914-1973... (Stein and Day). Also excluded are non-English-language titles, pamphlets, works of only local interest, and additional or final volumes of sets.

Electronic formats

Although we try to keep this annual list as current as possible, stretching our deadline to early 1989, some 1987 titles pubfished or reviewed too late for last year's fist are included here. In the special case of database and CD-ROM products, the committee took an extra year to acquire a thorough overview of this technology, learn how it's being used in libraries, and identify vendors and their products. Our review was guided by criteria recently revised and approved by the RASD Board. Reference works in aB nonprint and electronic formats are considered, as long as they are generally available to small and medium-sized public and college libraries, meet technical standards, and do more than simply duplicate another format. As with print sources, cost is not a factor in our evaluations.

Since this compilation is not intended for large research libraries, some impressive but specialized works-for example, A Women's Thesaurus.- An Index of Language Used to Describe and Locate Information by and about Women (Harper & Row)-were judged out of our scope, regardless of their excellence.

As Louis Shores noted 31 years ago in "Reference Checkist '57,"' the predecessor of this annual article, there is often a shortage of childrern's reference books; although they are eligible for this list, they have appeared rather infrequently in recent years. However, several of the titles selected this January are lavishly illustrated and would be especially fascinating to young adults for either leisurely browsing or term paper research: for instance, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Cambridge), A Dictionary of Heraldry (Harmony/Crown), and Extinct Birds (Facts On File).

There is no attempt to balance subject coverage or select a particular number of titles. This year's short and select list leans somewhat toward the social sciences (12 titles) and humanities (10 titles), with only seven science books. The works chosen range from the topical and pragmatically useful, such as AIDS Information Sourcebook (Oryx), the looseleaf Hazardous Chemicals on File (Facts On File), and The State-by-State Guide to Women's Legal Rights (McGraw-Hill), all indispensable for public libraries; to the scholarly threevolume Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience. …