Outstanding Reference Sources of 1985: A Compilation of Distinguished Reference Titles Selected by the Reference Sources Committee of the ALA Reference and Adult Services Division

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AFTER EXAMINING A seemingly endless parade of possibilities and meeting far into several nights at Midwinter in Chicago, the Reference Sources Committee takes pleasure in presenting its choices for the outstanding reference sources of 1985. The 45 titles comprising this year's list show strong similarities to last year's 44 selections and continue the trend toward longer lists. The humanities, with 23 titles, again dominate in spite of apparently increased publishing interest in the sciences, technology, and business.

The committee noted a continuing and welcome trend in reference publishing: Stimulating layouts and stunning illustrations grace many of the pages described in the following annotations. The attractiveness of sources such as The Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy (Cambridge) and The Encyclopedia of Aquatic Life (Facts on File) markedly enhances their reference value.

Perhaps the most significant of recent developments in both reference service and publishing is the impact of changing technology. Publishers now target online bibliographic databases, collections of microfilmed periodical articles accessed by ROM indexes, and even the newest laser disk technology to the small to medium-sized library. A quick review of the committee's selections for the past several years and for 1985 reveals no sources in such innovative formats. Though the committee has carefully considered several candidates from new technologies and will evaluate all future offerings, this year none matched our requirements of quality and appropriateness for small and medium-sized public and academic libraries.

This brings us to an important issue. Committee members and, I hope, most readers have relatively little difficulty in selecting "outstanding" sources. We all, however, encounter complexities when forced to limit that group to titles appropriate for small to medium-sized public and academic libraries. Several readers of last year's list felt that some choices were too specialized and beyond the scope of smaller collections.

The committee wrestled with this problem at some length before entering into this year's deliberations. Our discussion revealed an awareness of and sensitivity to the collecting differences between a mid-sized academic library probably supporting graduate programs and a fine, though small, public library. We have included some sources, therefore, that we found to be outstanding and appropriate for all medium-sized academic collections, but that may be considered outstanding in quality yet inappropriate for some small libraries. Falling into this category were Dictionary of American Regional English (Harvard) and The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (Grove's), for example. Librarians making collection development decisions should evaluate each title presented here on its own merits and in the context of their specific library's needs.

To ensure that sources selected for future lists more effectively match the needs of your libraries, we need your help. …


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