Reference Collection

I. Collection Description


The general reference collection located in the Reference Library and the Bookstacks, as a whole, provides the reference underpinnings for comprehensive research in all subject fields and most extensively in the social sciences and the humanities. The Reference Library serves all departments on campus, as well as members of the local community, visitors, correspondents and callers from all over the country and the world. Furthermore, the Reference Library is a central link between the patron and the UIUC library system collections and the bibliographic resources of the rest of the nation, other countries, and international organizations.

History of Collection:

The Reference Library was established as a separate unit in 1897 when the Library moved into the building now known as Altgeld Hall. The first reference librarian was appointed at that time. The collection formerly included a general periodicals section (1897-1975), a map room (1914-1926), and a separate bibliography collection which has been absorbed into the reference collection. Since 1928, the collection has occupied the second floor reading room of the main library building. The information desk, which underwent a major expansion in 1981, has been open since 1937. Most U.S. and Illinois documents in the collection were transferred to the Documents Library, when it was established in 1980. A small selection of basic documents reference tools, however, are maintained in the Reference Library.

Estimate of Holdings:

520,000 volumes.

State, Regional and National Importance:

The Library's reputation as a major research library encourages queries by telephone and letter from all parts of the world. Such inquiries are routinely handled by librarians in the Reference Library. The reference collection is the regional location for major bibliographic sources, particularly foreign bibliographies and indexes.

Unit Responsible for Collecting:

Reference Library.

Location of Materials:

Reference Room contains 20,000 volumes and the Bookstacks 500,000, volumes. The Information Desk has a collection of 40 volumes, which duplicates holdings in the Reference Room.

Citations of Works Describing the Collection:

Thompson, Madeline Lord. "History of the Reference Department of the University of Illinois Library." M.S. thesis, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1942.

II. General Collection Guidelines


Standard statement.

Chronological Guidelines:

No restrictions.

Geographical Guidelines:


Treatment of Subject:

Scholarly and, occasionally, popular treatments. Reference works of general, broad subject coverage. With few exceptions, works dealing with one individual or with a narrow aspect of any subject are excluded from the reference collection. Such works are the responsibility of departmental librarians and other subject specialists.

Types of Materials:

Standard statement. The collection is primarily comprised of bibliographies, indexes, dictionaries, encyclopedias, surveys, biographies, and other types of basic reference materials.

Date of Publication:

Standard statement.

Place of Publication:

No restrictions.

III. Collection Responsibility by Subject Subdivisions with Qualifications, Levels of Collecting Intensity, and Assignments

There are currently no subject fields assigned to Reference. Types of materials, as listed in II.E., are generally more important than the subject matter for reference collections. The following list, however, includes some of the major Dewey subject divisions, as well as the particular categories of reference materials.

The levels of collecting intensity for the reference collection deviate slightly from other collections. For instance, the kinds of materials defined in the general statement on levels of collecting intensity, such as instructional materials and journals, are rarely collected for the reference collection. However, the levels of study and research supported by the reference materials are accurately reflected in the general statement. Another deviation is that the numbers given for levels of collecting intensity refer only to the Reference Library. Every library in the system collects reference materials and the Reference Library acquires items for perceived patron need without regard to duplication of materials in other libraries, except for very expensive items. This situation is reflected in the Assignments column which refers only to the Reference fund.

Below is a table that lists specific subject subdivisions within the collection. Each row in the table lists a specific subject subdivision, followed by three columns noting: Collection Strength, Primary Assignments and Secondary Assignments. The Existing Collecting Strength column notes how well the existing collection covers that topic on a 1 to 5 scale with 5 being very strong. The Primary Assignments column lists departmental libraries that have the greatest collection intensity of subject materials, respectively. In the case of 2 or more libraries listed, the collection intensity is comparable. The Secondary Assignments column list departmental libraries where additional materials may be found.

Reference Collection
General and national bibliography (includes, for example, catalogs of major research collections, dissertations lists,union lists, etc. 4 Reference
General encyclopedias both in English and major foreign languages 3 Reference
General periodical indexes emphasizing broad interdisciplinary coverage in English as well as in other Western languages 3 Reference
Directories of organizations, museums, and other institutions 3 Reference
Publishing and the book trade 3 Reference
Philosophy 1 Reference
Religion 2 Reference
Summary statistics sources and indexes 4 Reference
Education directories 2 Reference
General social sciences 2 Reference
Language and linguistics 1 Reference
English and foreign language dictionaries 3 Reference
Pure sciences 1 Reference
Technology (applied sciences) 1 Reference
Arts 2 Reference
Literature (includes handbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias) 2 Reference
Geography and travel (includes atlases, gazetteers and travel guides) 2 Reference
Collected biography (universal, national, international and professional) 4 Reference
History (includes handbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias) 2 Reference
University of Illinois (history and directories) 2 Reference
Online search tools 3 Reference
Current affairs 3 Reference


Version Date: November 2005