Encyclopedias are used for a variety of purposes including ready-reference that covers the day-to-day questions a person may have; general background information covering definitions, explaining occurrences and processes and providing illustrations; and pre-research information that helps begin the research process
Single-volume encyclopedias include concise, factual information often accompanied by illustrations.These types of encyclopedias are often arranged in a dictionary format without an index.Examples include The Columbia Encyclopedia, The Cambridge Encyclopedia, and The Random House Encyclopedia
Encyclopedias that are specifically tailored toward a younger audience often have emphasis on formatting, illustrations and teaching tools; this simplified format and presentation allows children to become familiar with encyclopedias without being overwhelmed.Examples include various student encyclopedias, DK’s Children’s Illustrated Encyclopedia, and Scholastic Children’s Encyclopedia.
Subject encyclopedias are more in-depth and provide additional coverage about a specific field of knowledge that may not be represented in the standard set of encyclopedias. These subject specific encyclopedias may also provide ready-reference to subjects that are not well-represented in the overall library collection.Examples include encyclopedias about genres of literature, animals, music, and popular culture.
Yearbooks and Supplements focus on the happenings during a given year and provide chronological or topical reports about the major events/people that shaped the world. Yearbooks allow for additional information to be published that complements articles already located in the encyclopedia; they do not act as updates. Supplements are used to update print and CD-ROM encyclopedias.
Foreign-language encyclopedias provide information about a particular country or culture and may appear as single or multi-volume units.Some foreign-language encyclopedias are published in English-language versions and can be considered subject encyclopedias on other countries.
There are many reputable sources that can be used to review encyclopedias; some of the more widely known are: Kister’s Best Encyclopedias: A Comparative Guide to General and Specialized Encyclopedias ,Subject Encyclopedias, andARBA Guide to Subject Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
Additional reputable sources include scholarly journals and trade magazines. Booklist, Choice, PC World, and ZDNet-PC Magazine are some of the more popular choices when reviewing print format and electronic/online encyclopedias.
Every encyclopedia has a specific purpose, most often an explanation is included in the prefatory remarks. It is important to be aware of the intended audience, scope, and format of an encyclopedia; additional explanations of an encyclopedia’s emphasis can often be found in reviews.
All subjects should have some coverage in multi-volume general encyclopedias, though there should be greater emphasis placed on subjects with greater importance.It is important to consider the length and depth of articles when assessing an encyclopedia and also whether or not current affairs are covered and to what extent.
An encyclopedia’s audience is determined by the age of the target group and subject matter of the content.Different encyclopedias meet the needs of different target audiences as shown by the examples: Encyclopedia Britannica – readers above 9th grade level;World Book – meets reference needs of K-12 students, as well as librarians, teachers and the general public; International Encyclopedia of Business and Management – focuses on adults with interest in business personally or professionally
Encyclopedias are most often arranged alphabetically with cross-references and an index. The alphabetical order can vary between the word-by-word and letter-by-letter methods. Bibliographies follow articles/sections within long articles – online versions include links within the article
It is important to note that encyclopedias have different presentation styles - some focus more on breadth and depth, whileothers focus more on brevity and coverage of many topics. Writing styles also differ and the target audience should be considered at this point.Choosing a variety of encyclopedias to meet the diverse needs of users can be a solution to this problem.
The looks and format of an encyclopedia should meet the needs of the intended audience. Children’s encyclopedias should not be overwhelming and should include plenty of photographs and illustrations, while their adult counterparts should include more information rather than images.CD-ROMS and online encyclopedias allow for more interaction and multimedia enhancements.
There are many things that can set one encyclopedia apart from others, some include the inclusion of study aids and reading guides, like with World Book. Microsoft’s Encarta has a variety of media extras.The staff responsible for the content of an encyclopedia can show a lot about the worthiness of the source. In many cases the articles come from contributors who are specialists in their fields. The editorial staff is responsible for making sure all articles meet publisher guidelines and sometimes is responsible for writing the articles themselves.
Many encyclopedias contain errors and misinformation that is overlooked by staff; it is best to double check with other sources to verify information. One should never assume complete accuracy.
Initial assumptions can be made that an encyclopedia is objective, however, one should still further examination of prefatory material, text and images for balanced coverage and fair representation of an issue.
It is important to be aware of the needs of users. Learners need to be able to use encyclopedias to gather information and learn to process it. Users with general needs tend to want information easily and will skip research guides in favor of finding the information quickly. Users with scholarly or specialized needs have to find a decent amount of information on their topic, which is where subject encyclopedias play a major role to meet their needs.
When purchasing encyclopedias, one must consider how the format will affect the cost. Encyclopedias are investments and purchasing them yearly can become expensive. CD-ROMs and online versions have allowed users to access them at lower costs.
Purpose of the EncyclopediaTo give a summary of multidisciplinaryknowledge in a provable, organized, andeasily accessible manner that allowspeople to get the information they need ona general level and then on a specific levelby pointing them to more detailed sourcesof information. (Bopp & Smith, 433)
Uses of Encyclopedias• Ready-Reference Information – Types of questions with answers found in the encyclopedia: • “Where can I find a picture of a cat?” • “What is the population size of Japan?”• General Background Information – This sort of information gives definitions, explains occurrences, and gives illustrations • “How does respiration occur?” • “How is a book bound?”• “Pre-research” Information – Allows people to learn basic research skills – Provides an introduction to the organization and procurement of information
Types of Encyclopedias• Single-Volume Encyclopedias – Concise, factual information, often with illustrations – Arranged in dictionary format without an index
Types Cont’d.• Encyclopedias for Children and Young Adults – Emphasis on format, illustrations and tools that educate young people, thus making it easier for children to learn how to use the encyclopedia
Types Cont’d.• Subject Encyclopedias – Give more in-depth coverage to a specific field of knowledge. – Titles can give ready-reference to subjects that are not well-represented in the overall library collection
Types Cont’d.• Encyclopedia Yearbooks and Supplements – Yearbooks give a year in review, providing chronological or topical reports of the events and/or people that shaped the world in a given year. – Yearbooks do not act as updates; they complement the information in the encyclopedia – Supplements update print and CD-ROM encyclopedias
Types Cont’d.• Foreign-Language Encyclopedias – Provide information about a particular country or culture. – May appear as single or multi-volume units
EvaluationEncyclopedias are published to meet thegeneral information needs of a particulargroup. They contain lengthyessays, compact factual discussions and avariety of tools used to teach researchskills.– Writing style, format, accuracy and objectivity, currency and ease of use must be considered during the evaluation process (Bopp & Smith, 436)
Evaluation Cont’d.• Using Review Tools – Most widely accepted works used to review encyclopedias • Kister’s Best Encyclopedias: A Comparative Guide to General and Specialized Encyclopedias • Subject Encyclopedias • ARBA Guide to Subject Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
Evaluation Cont’d.• Reputable journals also include reviews of encyclopedias – Collection development journals • Booklist – Reference Books Bulletin • Choice – Discipline-specific journals – Trade magazines • Reviews of electronic and online encyclopedias - PC World, ZDNet-PC Magazine
Evaluating Scope• Focus/Purpose – Descriptions of intended audience, scope, format of an encyclopedia are located in the prefatory remarks – Reviews of encyclopedias often include the focus/purpose and may include where emphasis is placed • Ex. - Emphasis may be on textual or visual content
Evaluating Scope Cont’d.• Subject Coverage – Multi-volume general encyclopedias should have coverage across all subjects with emphasis on subjects with greater importance • Ex. – An encyclopedia published the U.S. would cover more subjects relevant to the United States – Balance is key, with respect to subject coverage • Length and depth of articles must be considered • Coverage and extent of current affairs should be examined
Evaluating Scope Cont’d.• Audience – Determined by subject matter and age • Examples: – Encyclopedia Britannica – readers above 9th grade level – World Book – meets reference needs of K-12 students, as well as librarians, teachers and the general public – International Encyclopedia of Business and Management – focuses on adults with interest in business personally or professionally
Evaluating Scope Cont’d.• Arrangement – Encyclopedias are most often arranged alphabetically with cross-references and an index – Arrangement can be varied • Word-by-word: San Salvador before sandman • Letter-by-letter: sandman before San Salvador • Bibliographies follow articles/sections within long articles – online versions include links within the article
Evaluating Scope Cont’d.• Style – Some encyclopedias focus on breadth and depth, while others focus more on brevity and coverage of many topics – Writing styles should be appropriate for the target audience and should be objective
Evaluating Format• Physical Format – Looks can be deceiving • Daunting physical format may discourage users • Overdone packaging may conceal lack of content • Format should appeal to target audience – Less images as the audience gets older – CD-ROMS and online encyclopedias allow for more interaction and additional multimedia enhancements • Need to be user-friendly and have the right balance of media and information • Upgrades are a must for both software and hardware • Access to the Internet is necessary for online versions
Evaluating Format Cont’d.• Uniqueness – Features that set one encyclopedia apart from others • Study aids • Reading guides • Interactivity• Authority – Who is responsible for the content? Is the information source worthy? • Contributors are specialist in their fields • Editorial staff is responsible for maintaining guidelines and creating/revising worthy contributions
Evaluating Format Cont’d.• Accuracy and Reliability of Information – Many encyclopedias contain errors and misinformation that is overlooked by staff; it is best to double check with other sources to verify information
Evaluating Format Cont’d.• Objectivity – Initial assumptions can be made that an encyclopedia is objective, however, one should still further examination of prefatory material, text and images • Attention should be paid to what articles include/omit, balanced coverage and use of language • Fair representation of both sides of an issue should be included
Evaluating Format Cont’d.• Currency – Print versions of encyclopedias lose value after purchase • Multi-volume sets are expensive to produce and revise – Electronic versions of encyclopedias are easier to update • Online versions have no limitations on updates • CD-ROMs are limited by production schedules, cost and space constraints
Evaluating Format Cont’d.• Indexing (Access) – Whether it be via reading guides, tables of contents, cross-references, bibliographies or indexes, assessing the means of accessing information is important • Some indexes are at the end of each volume, others are in a separate volume of their own • Cross-references can be internal or external • Going between many volumes can be tiresome and inefficient • Electronic versions make accessing information easier
SelectionPurchasing encyclopedias can be verycostly and one must decide whether topurchase a space taking, expensive printversion, or an electronic version– Electronic versions are used mostly by younger users– Older users may not be very familiar with computers and may prefer print versions– Choosing the correct format for users is important
Selection Cont’d.• User Needs – Learners • Encyclopedias provide ways to learn to access, synthesize and analyze information without feeling overwhelmed • Aid learners through mini-refresher courses – Users with General Needs • Encyclopedias with breadth of subject provide information quickly and easily – Users with Scholarly or Specialized Needs • Subject encyclopedias provide best information to meet user needs
Selection Cont’d.• Cost – Encyclopedias are investments – Newer versions are purchased based on the amounts of revision work and user needs• Impact of Format on Costs – CD-ROMs and online versions are low cost alternatives to print encyclopedias • Need to maintain expensive computer hardware to run CD-ROMs • Online versions can be purchased for a yearly flat fee.
Search Strategies• Get to Know Your Source – To locate information quickly and efficiently one must know how and when to use a source – Becoming familiar with several different encyclopedias is important because no two are alike – Librarians need to receive the proper information from a user through a reference interview in order to find the best source for their needs • It is important to be clear about what the information is for • Electronic versions of encyclopedias can be explained to first time users
Thank You!Dodd, J. (Writer). Edwards, C. (Voice Actor). (1956). Encyclopedia Specials.[Television Series Episode]. In B. Walsh (Producer), Mickey Mouse Club.Burbank, CA: Disney. Retrieved from:
Works Cited• Crawford, H. (2001). Encyclopedias. In R. E. Bopp, & L. C. Smith, Reference and Information Services: An Introduction (pp. 433-459). Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.