Reference Worth Screaming For

A packed ballroom at Sunday’s RUSA (the American Library Association’s Reference and User Services division) awards was treated to a dose of nostalgia of the kind that reference librarians love.

First was an announcement from Dartmouth Medal Committee Chair Jack O’Gorman concerning a set that Library Journal‘s reviewer Michael Bemis described as “a verbivore’s delight” (LJ 5/1/11). The 6000-page Green’s Dictionary of Slang (Oxford), a compilation of 110,000 historical and current words and phrases was awarded the prestigious Dartmouth Medal, given to a reference source “of outstanding quality and significance, including, but not limited to: writing, compiling, editing, or publishing books or electronic information.” The committee particularly cited the work’s scope: it covers slang from all English-speaking countries.

Then came the surprise: Statistical Abstract of the United States earned a lifetime achievement award, prompting a wistful “aaw” from the crowd. This resource, a darling of reference librarians, along with its sister Statistical Compendia works, was published for the last time in 2011 (though this fact, presumably the reasoning for the timing of the award, was not detailed at the ceremony). According to the Census Bureau, the budget spent to gather the vast amounts of data in these works was needed “in order to acquire funds for higher priority programs.”

The Outstanding Reference Sources announced were:
The Encyclopedia of Political Science (CQ Press)
The Civil War Naval Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO)
Competing Voices from the Russian Revolution: Fighting Words (Greenwood)
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible (Oxford University Press)
Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites (Johns Hopkins University Press)
The Polish American Encyclopedia (McFarland)
Green’s Dictionary of Slang (Oxford University Press)
Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine (SAGE)
The Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theory (Wiley-Blackwell)
The Homer Encyclopedia (Wiley-Blackwell)
The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art (Oxford University Press)

And in Outstanding Business Reference, the following titles were listed:
APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (American Psychological Association)
Contracts: The Essential Business Desk Reference (NOLO)
Handbook of World Exchange Rates, 1590-1914 (Ashgate)

Some of the announcements were greeted by quite a bit of excitement, especially from Robin Nesbitt (on Twitter, @robnesb) of Columbus Metropolitan Library; Alene Moroni (@surlyspice) of King County Library System, WA; Talia Sherer (@macmillanlib) of Macmillan Library Marketing; and Stephanie Chase (@acornsandnuts) of Mutnomah County Library (see above). They were particularly enthused about the inaugural Listen List, which honors outstanding audiobook narration, and mentioned such performances as Tina Fey’s Bossypants, narrated by the author; and George Eliot’s Middlemarch, narrated by Juliet Stevenson. The titles on the Listen List, as well as other RUSA winners, were accompanied handy readalike recommendations.

Read Neal Wyatt on the RUSA awards.

Henrietta Verma About Henrietta Verma

Henrietta Verma is Senior Editorial Communications Specialist at NISO, the National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore, and was formerly the reviews editor at Library Journal.