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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Reference Reviews, Volume 22, Issue 5.
In the end pages of this issue will be found the official announcement of the 2008 Reference Reviews winners in Emerald’s annual Literati Club Awards for Excellence. As in previous years, the Editorial Board has made three awards:
The “Best Print Reference Work” reviewed.
The “Best Electronic Reference Work” reviewed.
The “Best Reviewer” for the outstanding review of the year.
With the majority of our reviews still for titles published either only in print or, ever more commonly, in print but with a parallel electronic version (e.g. e-book), the premier award remains that for the “Best Printed Reference Work”. After several years in which multi-volume sets have dominated this category, and after much deliberation, the award is made to the single-volume Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages (RR 2007/326) from Routledge. Put together by former BBC employee, writer and Baltic language expert Christopher Moseley, this describes and catalogues 6,000 or more distinct tongues which are in imminent danger of disappearing, allocating them to five categories according to the degree of endangerment. A work of record and scholarship, and to some extent both a lament for what is about to be lost and a call to arms, it belongs in libraries of all types seeking to maintain a general collection of contemporary relevance.
The award for “Best Electronic Reference Work” is made for Literary Reference Center (RR 2007/382) from EBSCO Information Services. EBSCO which, when the editor started work in libraries nearly 30 years ago, was primarily a serials supply agent, has moved into the reference field rapidly in recent years. It has built a solid collection of databases, both proprietary and third party, moving beyond the abstracting and indexing sphere to provide more wide-ranging sources as typified by the award winner. It should be pointed out that in making this award to EBSCO, the Editorial Board were also very conscious of the competing claims of the many ways similar Literary Resource Center (RR 2007/229) from Thomson Gale. This received plaudits from the same reviewer, as well as elsewhere in the reviewing press and because of this is distinguished in the shortlist below with the accolade of “Special Commendation”.
Our final award, that for the “Best Reviewer”, is made to the contributor who provided the most notable review of the volume. This is always a difficult award to make and once again a very “long” shortlist was drawn up which was only whittled down with great difficulty. After much deliberation the award is made to Peter Guilding, a longstanding contributor of thoughtful and knowledgeable reviews to these columns, for his coverage of ABC-Clio’s Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia (RR 2007/297).
Selecting the best print and electronic works from the 406 reviewed in the 2007 issues of Reference Reviews is a rewarding but difficult task requiring much cross-checking and deliberation. To assist the process and to acknowledge those titles given special consideration two final shortlists were compiled that are reproduced below. The ten leading print and five leading electronic works have been given the designation Reference Reviews Top Ten Print Reference Works 2007 and Reference Reviews Top Five Electronic Reference Works 2007 respectively.
Reference Reviews top ten printed reference works 2007
The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization, Cambridge University Press (RR 2007/46).
Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-Clio (RR 2008/297).
Encyclopedia of Disability, Sage Publications (RR 2007/11).
The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War, (ABC-Clio) (RR 2007/246).
Encyclopedia of the Antarctic, Routledge (RR 2007/251).
Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages, Routledge (RR 2007/326) Overall Winner.
The Oxford Companion to the Garden, Oxford University Press (RR 2007/43).
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, Oxford University Press (RR 2007/135).
Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film, Thomson Gale (RR 2007/340).
The Yale Book of Quotations, Yale University Press (RR 2008/2007/163).
Reference Reviews top five electronic reference works 2007
Literary Reference Center, EBSCO Information Services (RR 2007/382) Overall Winner.
Literature Resource Center, Thomson Gale (RR 2007/229) Special Commendation.
The National Women’s Health Information Center, United States Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (RR 2007/95).
PolitInfo, Simon and Alexander Kist (RR2007/169).
The Shakespeare Collection, Thomson Gale (RR 2007/231).
Turning to this issue of Reference Reviews, it is interesting to note that both publishers of the award winning titles for 2007 are represented in the columns that follow. From Routledge we have two new encyclopaedias the International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities (RR 2008/212) and the Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence (RR 2008/209). EBSCO are represented by two of the company’s growing repertoire of free databases Library, Information, Science and Technology Abstracts (RR 2008/200) and Teacher Resource Center (RR 2008/214). For libraries with stretched budgets or librarians simply wanting to keep abreast of the professional literature, the former is a major boon, and must pose a challenge to the subscription services LISA: Library and Information Science Abstracts from ProQuest and Library Literature and Information Science Full Text from H.W. Wilson.
Violence is something of a minor theme in this issue. We also review Greenwood’s Dictionary of Genocide (RR 2008/207) which, with two volumes and many longer entries, is more encyclopaedic than the title would suggest. Sitting next to the Encyclopedia of Domestic Violence in the review sequence is the Encyclopedia of Juvenile Violence (RR 2008/210), another Greenwood title. Also from Greenwood is The Latino Experience (RR 2008/235), part of the publisher’s new American Mosaic electronic resource incorporating material from a wide range of sources. The first component in this series of databases, the African American Experience was reviewed in the previous issue (RR 2008/187); further components on Asian Americans and American Indians are to follow.
American Indians are also the subject of a major new four-volume encyclopaedia from ABC-Clio, the Encyclopedia of American Indian History (RR 2008/237). Topping this for size is Thomson Gale’s five-volume New Encyclopedia of Africa (RR 2008/242). The “new” indicates this replaces Scribner’s Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara published as recently as 1997. Titles in the various Cambridge Companions series are regularly reviewed in these columns so it is fitting that our opening review is for Cambridge Companions Complete Collection (RR 2008/197) offering full text access to more than 70,000 pages from 270 titles. Despite the rush to digitise and aggregate back content, some reference stalwarts continue largely unchanged as primarily standalone resources. One such is Chambers Dictionary of Science and Technology (RR 2008/223) first published as long ago as 1940 and perhaps better known in UK libraries than on the other side of the Atlantic. Interestingly, reviewer Barry White subjected the new Chambers to a comparison, admittedly not very scientific or technical, with Wikipedia. Whereas Chambers scored 5.5 on coverage of the ten random topics chosen, Wikipedia easily exceeded this with 9.5. Further proof, if any more where needed, that the future of reference tools lies in bulk and agglomeration. As the Cambridge Companions Complete Collections and Greenwood’s American Mosaic database family underlines, publishers are packaging and re-packaging content to enhance its value and reference “clout”. And if we return to our list of Top Ten Printed Reference Works 2007 it is interesting to note that a substantial proportion are available in electronic format as part of the publisher’s wider electronic reference package. To take some examples, The Oxford Companion to the Garden is available as part of Oxford Reference Online (RR 2003/04), the Encyclopedia of Disability is available as part of Sage eReference and both the ABC-Clio titles can be found in the publisher’s History Reference Online.
Tony ChalcraftEditor Reference Reviews and University Librarian, York St John University, York, UK