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Reference Department: Collection

John B. Cade Library


Books and materials in the Reference Department are non-circulating. Material may be taken to the Copy Center on the first floor and returned to the Reference Department upon completion. 

Special permission is required for an administrator or faculty member to remove reference resources from the library, for a limited charge  period up to 24 hours. 

What is a Reference Collection?

A library's Reference Collection is standard references like encyclopedias, handbooks, and dictionaries that will provide answers to questions on any topic in the field of research. It is called a Reference Collection because items are used in the library and cannot be checked-out. The Reference Collection provide resources that will quickly answer your research question. Librarians are available to assist you with your research questions and give you pointers on selecting the appropriate reference source. You can speak with a Librarian at the Ask Here Desk, or by phone at (225)771-2841.

Typical Reference Sources​

Although there are many types of sources in the Reference Collection the most commonly collected types of reference sources include:

Almanacs--Usually published annually, Since the almanac is published every year the information is current. Almanacs contain dates, weather, top news stories of the year, statistics on sports, facts about famous persons, world population figures, holidays, and other miscellaneous topics.

Atlases--An Atlas is a book of maps, usually of the regions of the world. An atlas might contain both physical and political maps. Physical maps show the physical features of the earth; mountains, bodies of water, deserts, plains, etc. Political maps show continents, countries and cities. To find a specific place in an atlas, the index is the best place to start. The index is at the back of the book and is arranged alphabetically. The table of contents is at the front of the book and is arranged in sequential order. The atlas may contain a map list.

Bibliographies-- Bibliographies identify books, articles, and other resources available to researchers. Usually bibliographies focus on a particular subject area, like literature, sociology, or psychology, and can be used to find classic studies in the field. 

Biographies-- Biographical works will help you find facts and information about the life and work of a person, such as birth and death dates, education, professional life, and social and personal activities. Biographies are works that tell the history of an individual , may be a short sketch, or may be a long detailed presentation and analysis.

Chronologies- A chronology documents events over a period of time, frequently in a time-line fashion. For example, if you were interested in researching  scientific progress during the 19th century, a chronology of science will give you a year-by-year, and possible day-by-day, overview of the major scientific events for the 19th and other centuries.

Dictionaries--A dictionary is a book that gives pronunciations and definitions of words. The words are arranged alphabetically. The guide words at the top of each page show the first and last words on that page, so they will help you know if the word you want is on that page. The entry may also show synonyms and other forms of the word.

Digest-- A digest is an organized collection of summaries of longer documents in an area. One of the most notable and frequently used digest is the Book Review Digest. The Book Review Digest provides year-by-year summaries of book reviews in a variety of sources.

Directories--​Directories typically provide contact information for people and organizations, as well as additional background information. 

Encyclopedias-- An encyclopedia is a set of book which contain short articles about many topics including animals, presidents, countries, people, plants, and so much more. The articles are summaries with basic facts and information. The volumes are arranged in alphabetical order. If you need to find information about porcupines you would look in the P volume. Then you would use the guide words at the top of the pages to find porcupines. Keywords help you know which volume contains the article you want to read. When trying to find a person, use the last name- Barack Obama.

Gazetteers--A gazetteer is a geographical dictionary that includes brief descriptive, geographical, historical, and statistical information on specific places.

Handbooks---Also referred to as manuals, are practitioners' guides to specific fields.

Indexes-- Indexes are usually though of as guides to articles in periodicals and newspapers.

Pictorial Works-- Pictorial works use photographs, drawings, or other types of  illustration to help develop clearer understandings of various topics.

Statistical Works--Statistical works involves the process of collecting and analyzing data and then summarizing the data into a numerical form. You may be asked to find statistical information when conducting your research.

Yearbooks--Yearbooks can provide statistical data as well as topical articles updating information in a variety of areas.