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“What above all marks out a reference book from other works is the way it is arranged: it must be deliberately designed for ease of consultation rather than for continuous reading.” “Ease of consultation,” an essential component for reference books, as stated by Gavin Higgens in his book Printed Reference Material, is a criterion that reference librarians often consider as they use reference books to answer questions. Reference book publishers have long used various special features designed to speed access to information in these sources. Thumb indexes for dictionaries come to mind immediately when one thinks of this type of special feature. Some publishers include printed index tabs listing sections or subject categories, as in The National Directory of Addresses and Telephone Numbers, where the tabs are on a separate sheet of paper to be attached to the appropriate pages by the librarian. Margin or edge indexes in the Washington Information Directory or in the Government Reports Announcements & Index provide quick identification of sections to turn to, and are easy to use for both patrons and librarians. Color can also be used as a device to distinguish different sections of a reference tool. Literary Market Place and Magazine Industry Market Place, for example, use yellow pages to separate the main body from the quick reference directory of names and telephone numbers. Of course, these devices are not substitutions for indexes or tables of contents, but are helpful to librarians and users who want to be more self‐sufficient. The editor of this column would like reference book publishers to consider including more of these devices in their publications. Readers are invited to write to this editor with other examples of special features which promote “ease of consultation” of reference serials.


Quinlan, J.B., Pilachowski, D., Dallas, L.J., Veitch, C.J., Gerke, R. and Carrington, B. (1983), "Reference Serials", Reference Services Review, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 79-86.




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