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Forgotten Treasures

August 13th, 2013
Carole · Staff Recommendations

Perhaps forgotten but certainly not gone is the reference collection at the Harrison Public Library. Reference books can be expensive and voluminous. Purchasing these sets for a home library is unaffordable and unrealistic, and fortunately, unnecessary. For research or for browsing, for the scholar and the intellectually curious, isn’t it nice to know that access to the tremendous wealth of research, which is the purpose and nature of these works, is possible, attainable, unrestricted. You don’t have to own these works because your library does. We have made sure to preserve these tomes …isn’t that one of the many reasons libraries exist and endure?

The Annals of America is a 22 volume set documenting the history of our country beginning in 1493, through 2001. According to the introduction, it was the task of a staff of librarians and researchers to find the original document of almost every one of the selections. The 13,000pages represent no more than one hundredth of one percent of materials that document the history of America. Several factors determine if a document will be included. The first criterion for inclusion was the historical significance of the piece. Another was the “excellence or fame” of the document, the third the excellence or fame of the author. The fourth criteria set forth was to make sure varied points of view on a particular subject were represented. Consequently, many pieces are authored by unknown onlookers, or the Common Man, not only direct participants. The fifth and most important criterion was that the topic or material had broad significance. This can be subjective and brought up lively discussions among selectors.

In volume one read a letter written in 1633 by John Elliot of Massachusetts Bay to Sir D’Ewes in England, making a plea for funds to begin a college in the Colony. Although denied at that time this request was later honored by John Harvard.

Volume 22 contains a speech given by George Marotta of Stanford University in March 2000. His pessimistic and unpopular view of the sky high Dow Jones Industrial Average and what it may mean for the American economy was an initial, vocal predictor of the subsequent crash.

An entire article could be written about the Oxford English Dictionary. Indeed, whole books have been written about this work, including Reading the OED: One man, one year, 21,730 pages by Ammon Shea and The Meaning of Everything: the story of the OED by Sam Winchester. The library owns the 2nd edition of this 20 volume compendium. The preface states that the aim of the OED is to present all the words “that have formed the English vocabulary from the time of the earliest records to the present day, with all the relevant facts concerning their form, sense-history, pronunciation, and etymology”. The New Revision project was begun in 1984, completed in 1989. The staff and collaborators for such an undertaking numbered 67, with an additional 100+ consultants. Do these numbers make you curious? Here are more statistics: The Second edition of the OED contains 290,500 main entries, 59 million words. There are 137,000 pronunciations, 249,300 etymologies, 577,000 cross references and 2,412,400 illustrative quotations. The first Main Word in the OED is A which has 6 pages of entries; the last Main word is Zyrian.

Contemporary Literary Criticism is an indispensible, important resource for the layman or scholar attempting to evaluate and understand a literary work. This includes works of novelists, poets, playwrights and other creative writers. CLC, and its cousins NCLC (19th Century Contemporary Literary Criticism) and TCLC (20th Century Contemporary Literary Criticism) consists of excerpts of published criticism of works by both well-known authors and those lesser known ones whose work critique may be harder to locate . CLC includes writers living or who have died since 1960; TCLC covers authors who died between 1900 and 1960; NCLC covers writers who died between 1800 and 1900. For an individual researcher, locating these reviews would be an insurmountable task. Having relevant excerpts culled together in this accessible manner is. Publication was begun in 1973 and continues today. On the shelves of the library sit 280 volumes of CLC, 203 volumes of NCLC and 212 volumes of TCLC, all published through 2010. The scope and detail of these works has benefited library users of all levels, from High School students just beginning to learn about the world of literary criticism, to scholarly researchers, to the intellectually curious.

New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians aims at being encyclopedia and universal. Half the entries related to composers, from ancient times to the present. The criteria for inclusion of a composer vary according to the time period. Every known medieval composer is entered. In the 2001 edition of the Grove that the library has, the music and composers of the 20th century have taken precedent over 19th century musicians. A dictionary such as Grove cannot be cumulative. Each generation of editors reassess it according to the particular requirements of the era.

Among the many fascinating additional multivolume resources worth exploring are American National Biography, Encyclopedia of World Art,International Encyclopedia of Dance, Grizimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia,Encyclopedia Judaica, New Catholic Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

Next time you are in the library please come to the Information Desk and ask a librarian for a tour of our significant Reference Collection.

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