Outstanding Reference Sources 2002: The Annual Recommendations of Distinguished Reference Works Selected by Reference Librarians from Public and Academic Libraries. (Reference)

Article excerpt

A mid the hubbub and excitement in New Orleans as the city geared up to host the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras festivities, a group of 11 librarians convened in a conference room during ALA's Midwinter Meeting to complete the annual task of compiling a list of the year's outstanding reference sources. These librarians comprised ALA's Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Reference Sources Committee, a group charged with identifying newly released reference works of distinction that would be appropriate for small to medium-sized academic and public libraries.

Each committee member is assigned one or more subject areas to review. Throughout the year they comb catalogs, peruse publisher Web sites, collect reviews, and examine hundreds of new reference titles. Close contact is established with publisher representatives to obtain news of forthcoming publications and to acquire relevant review copies. In October, the chair solicits committee nominations and distributes a preliminary list that is continually refined. Titles are often added at the last minute due to heavy year-end publishing activity. Some 50 to 60 titles were held up to committee scrutiny during the five sessions and 15 hours of deliberations in January. A final list of 26 outstanding titles emerged.

The 26 winning titles not only reflect the highest quality, but range widely in subject matter, scope, format, and price. Some titles, including the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, were selected for their magnitude of scholarship; while others, like the Encyclopedia of the World's Zoos and Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia, filled a niche in reference literature. The many science titles, such as the Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy, demonstrate the continuing need for current information in an era of rapid scientific and medical advancements.

The cost factor loomed over the committee as a critical selection criterion. The expensive 29-volume New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians made the list after a determination that its unique wealth of information and inclusion of new information made it suitable for a great number of public and academic libraries. Second editions, such as the New Historical Atlas of Religion in America, are usually not included, but this year's list includes three classic titles that have been completely revised and significantly expanded.

An exhibit featuring the 2002 Outstanding Reference Sources will be on display at the RUSA booth during the ALA Annual Conference this summer in Atlanta. To learn more about the Reference Sources Committee or to see past and present lists with fuller annotations, visit the RUSA Web site at www.ala.org/rusa/bestref.html.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy, edited by John Zumerchik. 3 vols. l,270p. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000 (0-02-865021-2), $375.

These volumes provide a snapshot of the history and science of energy production, conservation, and use. Multidisciplinary in scope, the 253 signed and lavishly illustrated articles cover topics ranging from biofuels and bicycles to steam engines and thermodynamics. The work ends with a fascinating energy time line that puts major events in the history of energy into context.

Encyclopedia of Computers and Computer History, edited by Raul Rojas. 2 vols. 950p. Chicago and London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001 (1-57958-235-4), $295.

This unique reference work includes 600 articles covering the full history of computing from the abacus to eBay. Biographies of major figures in the history of computers, company background, and lists of computer terminology as well as profiles of pioneering computers such as the ENIAC and the Commodore 64 are provided.

Encyclopedia of the World's Zoos, edited by Catharine F. Bell. 3 vols. 1,600p. Chicago and London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001 (1-57958-174-9), $325.

No other reference work provides the history and background of more than 150 of the world's major zoos, as well as the types of animals housed, the concepts and issues of animal care and keeping, facility design, professional organizations, and significant people in the field of zoology. …