Last Updated: Jul 11, 2017
Reference resources are sources of information that people can use to look up factual information about a topic. In the library, reference books cannot be checked out, which means they are always available for people to use. Luckily, there is a vast amount of reference information available online through the library's online resources and through the free Internet.
On this page, you can find a description of each of the main kinds of reference sources and link to a list of great online reference resources of each kind.
An encyclopedia is a reference source that provides information on many subjects (General Encyclopedia) or many aspects of one subject (Subject Encyclopedia). You can search for more encyclopedias in Credo Reference
, Gale Virtual Reference Library
, and other resources on our ebooks page
- Ready Reference
Ready Reference sources are those that have facts or information to answer quick reference questions, such as "Who won the World Series in 1964?" Almanacs and fact books are two kinds of ready reference books.
Dictionaries come in different varieties. Some cover all subjects, while others cover just one. Some focus on abbreviations, idioms, or foreign words. And thesauruses contain synonymns and antonymns for each listed word. Many more dictionaries are available through Credo Reference, Gale Virtual Reference Library, and Oxford Reference Online.
- Atlases & Maps
Atlases are collections of maps, charts, or other illustrations. While many are about geography, there are atlases on many subjects, such as biology, anatomy, history, and more.
Biographical reference sources contain biographies of many, sometimes thousands, of people. They are not as complete as stand-alone biographies, but cover many more subjects. Many biographical sources are compiled by topic, such as science or the arts, or geographic area, such as the United States.
- Government Information
Government information covers sources by and about all levels of government: local, state, federal, and international. The U.S. government collects and publishes an enormous amount of data and information, and much of it can be accessed online.
Directories are organized lists of people and/or organizations including details about them, such as contact information. A phone book is directory, but other directories may include more detailed information.