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General Reference Works are the reference books that provide realistic information on various specialized subjects. These are checked briefly to determine specific and confirmed information about facts. They are mainly given importance to make it easier in accessing the data on the basis of reference. It becomes helpful for students, researchers, etc. to extract knowledge in flexible manner and is a basic resource in the libraries. These are generally accessed to check for specific information but not to read it entirely.An individual author or a group of editors finish the work. They are the vital source of information about any topic under the sun.
Initially during the early 1800s, sincemost of the population are illiterate only exclusive society of people used to access the library. As the literature rate increased, the number of people accessing the libraries also increased. This led to the birth of reference services. Samuel Swett Green has published a complete documentation in the year 1876. He has the credit for the first reference service. Janes, Chair of Library and Information Science at the University of Washington, out of his passion he put forward all the reference books dated to back to 1876. Later due to digitalization of Reference works, the librarians who have accustomed with the changes have taken the advantage. Author, title, volume, edition, series, place of publication, publishers name, date of publication, forward, preface, introduction, table of contents, text, appendix, glossary, index are the order of aspects in a reference books.

Internet public library is an online source of innumerous reference books. There are specific reference sources apart from general reference works sources. The various categories in them are:
  • Art and architecture
  • Biographical
  • Business
  • Computers
  • Technology
  • Medicine and health
  • Research
  • Science
  • Technical writers
  • Miscellaneous
Components of general reference works
  • It assists the information seeker in solving the queries.
  • Aids the reader in selecting the required apt book, this provides the bridge between the knowledge of librarian and the users requirement.
  • They promote the library in the respective community.
  • It provides information to the reader in the way the library is arranged that helps in capturing the advantage of getting familiarity.
Categories of general reference works:
These are a wide range of categories which are accessed for clarifying or when in need of information. To find the quick answer / solutions for the question, general reference books like Almanacs, bibliographies, handbooks, directories, atlases, statistical sources etc. are consulted.
  • Almanacs:
     They include statistical data and tables. Information on weather forecasts dates for the farmers to plant trees, etc. are specified. They also incorporate astronomical data like position of stars, occurrences of eclipses, setting of sun, etc. that mostly cover broader period of time. World Almanac and Book of Facts is one such reference book which portrays information on popular cultures and events.
  • Bibliographies:
     These reference works provides organized description and listing of books based either on author, period of release, location or the subject that helps in identifying from a specific collection of books. They also include annotations to help the reader. Guide to Reference Books for School Media Centers is an example of Bibliographic reference works.
  • Directories:
     These enlist organized list on a specific category/vertical like an organization or the people, addresses, email ids or the mobile numbers. It displays information basing on categories and sub-categories under regions, languages, etc. The best example of directories is Special Collections in Childrens Literature.
  • Handbooks:
     These are designed to give ready abundant information on specified subject or the technology. They mainly focus on single topic and enable to access quick answers. Their application is used in various fields of organizations. Handbooks are one of the reference sources that need to be circulated in order to serve the purpose. Famous First Facts is one of such Handbooks.
  • Yearbooks
     This kind ofreference book provides a record of various highlights and topics like school events, academic information, farewell messages of the students and the staff, individual student picture, etc.
  • Encyclopedias:
     Encyclopedia is a self contained reference book which includes brief description over almost complete range of knowledge subjects. It also incorporates maps, pictures, charts, diagrams and tables to help in better orientation of the problem. The other important feature enabled in Encyclopedias is the index. Index allows you to trace through different parts of information available upon the given subject. It is either given at the end of the book or at the end of each volume, in case it holds multiple volumes. The encyclopedia may be General or Subject oriented. World Book Encyclopedia and The Grolier Encyclopedia of Science and Technology are the well-known reference works in this category. They serve as the excellent reference to start when we are unfamiliar with a subject area.
  • Dictionaries:
     As we all know, dictionaries are used to help us know the meanings of different words, their phonetics, origin, pronunciation, antonyms and usage. Different types of language dictionaries are present which have words arranged in lexicographical order. They also include examples of how they can be included in a sentence. Few dictionaries also include pictures that help in better emphasizing. Dictionaries generally contain meanings for 250,000 words or more. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English and Websters School Dictionary can be mentioned as the examples of reference books in category of Dictionaries.
  • Atlases:
     Atlases helps us in locating the places, distances and directions between the given source and destination, information about the topographic features, weather conditions and population. They also include scales and symbols portraying the place. It also provides information on various scales and their conversions that can be easily interpreted like in Atlas of American History.
  • Statistical Sources:
     These provide information on statistical issues and facts that are going around the world.
  • Biographical Sources:
     These reference sources gives information of famous and notable individuals from all over the world like some biographical sources that focus only on Africans or only on information about authors, award winners or politicians. One such reference is the Current Biography Yearbook.
  • Quotation Sources:
     Quotation reference books includes phrases, proverbs or passages from well-known writers. All the information is arranged either by theme, author or in chronological order.
  • Specialized Sources:
     Few reference books give a wide knowledge on specialized areas of sciences and technology like the emergence of a particular source and also about the new discoveries and inventions.
  • Wikipedia:
     This online reference work upon the internet that covers almost all the topics. This supports multilingual languages and is almost read by millions of people.
  • Indexes:
     This is the tremendously useful tool to reveal the complete resources that are not covered in the more general catalog and contain necessary information in identifying the location of recourse in the given source like newspapers, periodicals, etc. Example of index book is the National Geographic Index.
Archival of Reference works
Generally, it is only few out of many reference works that are accessed more frequently. Many of them are referred very rarely but used in case of research projects. It is the duty of librarians to make an archive of these factual materials. The primary purpose aided by these reference books is to increase the quality of service that is being rendered by the libraries. They cover all the aspects of the given topic by examining each question and providing the corresponding confirmed answers. These reference books, as the name suggests, are used just for reference but not for borrowing.
Advances incorporated in accessing of Reference Books
  • It makes it possible for multiple users to access concurrently and for any given time.
  • Continuous access rights.
  • Recently, it has been providing access to download and print the materials with no DRM restrictions.
  • Systematic arrangement by title or by collection makes it flexible for selection.
  • The technology has also improvised in allowing single site access over the given premises.
  • Many reference works are now available for access 24/7.
  • Machine-Readable Cataloging is also enabled to read bibliographic information online.
Few popular Reference Works
  • Britannica Book of the Year:
     This includes important yearly events and is published annually.
  • Facts on File:
     This is a weekly edition that provides reference on up-to-date information with current events indexed to persons name, place or subject.
  • McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science and Technology:
     This annual edition includes subject based information on Science and Technology.
  • The Oxford Companion to American Literature:
     This provides historical guide to American literature, society and trends.
  • The Statesmans Year Book:
     It enlists information and facts about political and economic aspects of the country like education systems, diplomatic missions, welfare, financial institutions, etc.
  • McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Biography:
     It specifically covers information on notable people who are often featured in the curriculum of high school students.
  • Whos Who:
     This annual international edition includes the biographical information of living people.
Advantages of general reference books
  • They are useful pieces of reference for researchers in providing contextualization of any number of topics.
  • They also give bibliographic information on writers that enable in pointing the required resource.
  • These reference works also include many subject aspects that may not be available electronically.
  • The confirmed and real facts are specified in the reference books. This makes the data in the books to be used for research and other vital jobs.
  • Enable to collect all the background information required for the research work.
  • Reference works are available both in the form of books and also CD-ROMs depending on the budget invested by the library.
  • The information specified in the books is in easy to refer format, which makes the reader comfortable.
  • They are not allowed for circulation, though can be referred from the library. This makes the books safe and also damage free.
  • Vital information on a respective subject can be accessed. It saves both time and effort.
Issues related to general reference books
  • Archiving:
      One of the major issues is with Archival. The reference books need to be accomplished organized.
  • Indexing:
     Proper indexing has to be maintained in enabling flexible access
  • Rapid Changes in Technology:
     With advancement of technologies, the equipment used to read the information becomes obsolete.
  • Security:
     Proper initial planning needs to beperformed in protection of information from crashes, damage and interference.
  • Access to Information:
     It should be ensured that all the users are given the access to information.
  • Censorship:
     At times, the denial of information access makes the user unaware that the filters are being used and the information he is seeking is filtered.
  • Copyright Laws:
     It should also check for the laws on intellectual information preservation.
  • Reliability:
     The most important, reliability should be maintained in all reference works.
Several awards are also being announced for the contribution towards reference works to provide encouragement. They serve the purpose in lending the detailed information and are of great importance in the field of research works. Due to the rise of subject specific general reference works, the task of the user has reduced.


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