or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



What’s In Your Ready Ref?

   September 1st, 2009

Ready Reference CollectionI've been working on an answer to Debbie's comment about a guide to ready reference, but am sorry to say I haven't been able to find one.

Searches on the web found a lot of great ready reference lists of websites, but not print books. Amazon lists some, but I don't have them to review. I remember having such lists in my library school text books, so maybe that's the best place to look.

But as I thought about this, and looked at what's on the ready reference shelf at my library, I concluded two things:

  1. To be effective, the ready reference collection needs to be tailored to the library and its patrons. My current ready reference collection is very different from the one we had behind the desk of the Kent State University Library when I worked there, but they are equally appropriate
  2. The best thing to do might just be to ask other librarians which print ready reference resources they like and use

So in the spirit of the second one, here's an overview of resources on the ready reference shelf in my library. If you're so inclined, please share what you've got on your shelf - I'd really be curious to know.

For staff to help answer computer questions:

Things that don't really get used but I feel we should have:

Quick Facts & Referencey books (for annual resources, we keep the current year in ready reference and move past years to the reference collection):

Government Information:

Business Directories:

Local Information:

Shelved right next to the desk

Granted, many of these only get used once or twice a year, if that, and almost all have online versions (or equivalents). But I really like being able to answer a question just by grabbing a book within reach, showing a patron how to look it up, and then let them sit at a table absorbing the information. I don't know, it feels more tangible and satisfying than relying on Google for everything.




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23 Responses to “What’s In Your Ready Ref?”

  1. Debbie Says:

    Brian,

    Thanks for posting the list. It’s a good look at what kinds of topics interest your patrons the most. I definitely agree with you that your ready reference material should be defined by your patrons’ needs.

    Debbie

  2. Jocelyn Shaw Says:

    We have the usual culprits behind the ref desk, but the ones we actually use are Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory, Encyclopedia of Associations, Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media, World Almanac, Michigan Residential Code, Michigan Building Code, Michigan Divorce Book with minor children, Michigan Divorce Book without minor children, ASVAB, GED, Chase’s Calendar of Events, Webster’s Dictionary, Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, the current PDR, Personal Forms on File, Legal Forms for Everyone, Harris Michigan Industrial Directory, Polk City Directory, and Bresser’s City Directory.

  3. Alicia Says:

    Being a new reference librarian(2 years out of school) I am so glad to see this topic on your blog.
    Right now, as I look at the shelves behind our reference desk, we have the indexes and publications to Outlook, Morningstar and Valueline; 09 Harris New York Manufactuers Directory, 09 Guide to NY Taxes, 09 J.K. Lasser Your Income Tax, Office 2003 for Dummies, 09 Guinness World Record, Book of Millenium Records, Webster’s Dictionary, NY Times Almanac, 09 World Almanac, Leonard Matlin’s Movie Guide, 08 World Chamber of Commerce Directory, the Manual for Writers of Term Papers…, APA Publications Manual, NADA guides, Consumer Reports Buying guides, and various Code books of NYS.
    This shelf was created before I got here. I’ve been told many of them are here because they tend to leave the library for good if they are on the regular reference shelves. I’m used to ready reference being easily available to patrons, but it works to have it easily available to librarians.

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