Outstanding Reference Sources: A 1988 Selection of Recent Titles

By Sammataro, Linda J. | American Libraries, May 1988 | Go to article overview

Outstanding Reference Sources: A 1988 Selection of Recent Titles


Sammataro, Linda J., American Libraries


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

AFTER A YEAR OF DILIGENT consideration of at least 2,000 new titles, the Reference Sources Committee gathered to confer for three days at the 1988 ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Antonio. There, members chose the creme de la creme of outstanding reference sources of 1987-and some from 1986-for small and medium-sized public and academic libraries.

These 26 tales range in length from the slim 128-page Women in the World.- An International Atlas (Simon & Schuster), compiled by two geographers, to Mircea Eliade's monumental 16-volume EncycloPedia of Religion (Macmillian); in subject matter, from the concreteness of the Underground Atlas: A Gazetteer of the World's Cave Regions (St. Martin's) to thewide sociological and historical focus of the World Encyclopedia of Peace (Pergarnon), whose honorary editor-in-chief is Linus Pauling. In between are dictionaries of mythological characters,historical concepts, and artificial intelligence terminology; encyclopedias of astronomy, deafness, and materials science; fascinating handbooks of North American butterflies, holidays, and facts about teaching; and fine bibliographies of modern Shakespearean criticism and popular music.

Although the smallest public libraries may decide not to purchase such large sets as the aforementioned Encyclopedia of Religion or the eight-volume Encyclopedia of Materials Science and Engineering (Van Nostrand Reinhold), this selection of titles represents the best in quality and appropriateness for the whole of our very heterogeneous audience, which includes all but large public and academic libraries.

The subject distribution of this year's list is roughly one-third each in the of science and technology, social sciences, and humanities. No deliberate attempt has been made to balance subject coverage or to select a particular number of titles. The total of 26 books (versus 37 last year and 45 for 1985) is indeed small but select, with some important recent titles omitted only because they are new editions of old standards rather than original works-for example, Holman and Harmon's A Handbook to Literature (5th ed., MacmilIan), the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technoloxy (6th ed., McGraw-Hill, and the Encyclopedia of Social Work (18th ed., National Association of Social Workers). Also, some otherwise outstanding works, such as The Oxford Companion to Gardens (Oxford), were a little too specialized to be judged indispensable.

Our criteria exclude non-English-language works, pamphlets, and new volumes of incomplete sets, as well as sources of purely local interest. We consider annuals and yearbooks, such as the TeacherB; Ah nanac (Facts on File), only when they first appear; and new editions of monographs only if significantly revised, such as the virtually new second unabridged edition of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language (Random House). Nonprint sources and reference works written specifically for children are not excluded, although none of them has appeared on this list in recent years.

We try to keep this annual list as current as possible. However we believe that care in evaluation of reference works should not be sacrificed to speed, so some 1986 imprints are included this year. The title of this article has been changed to "Outstanding Reference Sources: A 1988 Selection of Recent Titles" rather than previously used wording, as in "Outstanding Reference Sources of 1987," because its scope is not strictly limited to publications of one calendar year. For example, the first English translation from the French of Grimal's Dictionary of Clinical Mythology (Blackwell) was completed in 1985 and copyrighted in 1986, but was not widely reviewed in this country until 1987. We could not fail to bring such a landmark work to your attention merely because of its early publication date On the other hand, the index volume of The Encyclopedia of Religion was not released untU 1988, but since the other 15 volumes had been in print for a full year, we felt bound to include this magnificent source in our present list. …

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