When most scholars think of traditional research sources, this is probably the category with which they are most familiar. For Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union it is also one of the most highly developed resources in the reference arsenal. The large number of guides to bibliography attest the quantity of bibliographic publications.
There are a variety of approaches to finding the best bibliographic source for your research. If you are beginning research in an unfamiliar area, or simply wish to be as thorough as possible it is useful to be aware of the full range of sources available for your work.
So how does one go about identifying the bibliographic sources needed for a particular area of research? Handbooks and bibliographies of bibliographies are probably the most efficient and least popular mechanisms. These resources are different in nature. The bibliography of bibliography does not usually provide any function other than to list resources available in a field of study. The handbooks will often explain the use of various types of sources, highlight obscure or difficult resources and make note of sources that might be considered outside a particular field. While they are not limited to bibliographic resources they will list the major bibliographies in a particular field. Both devices will be important for locating bibliographic publications.
One other valuable resource that should not be overlooked is the national bibliography. This is a resource that has a specialized utility for the scholar. However, the term "national bibliography" is occasionally taken in a broad sense to refer to the primary record of a nation's publishing.
Bibliographies of bibliography are well developed in many countries (see sections on Russian, Czech and Polish sources). They can be compiled over many years, or issued annually. The most helpful are annotated and include a variety of indexes: author, title, subject and geographic. These sources are often published for specific subjects.
Electronic sources are changing the resources for bibliographies. For example, at the Slovene Union Catalog, it is possible to request the compilation of a bibliography for a specific author within one subsystem of the national library catalog. Such resources should make the researcher aware of what s/he may find by checking the online catalogs.
Another valuable bibliographic source is the national bibliography for each country. There are general guides for this type of material. The national bibliographies are valuable not only for monographs.
The national bibliography of a country may be a record of all publications on a country and include émigré material or be limited to what is published within a country's borders. Most have been published serially in the past and can be daunting to use. However, there are instances when they are essential for research. If you are trying to identify publication information on a particular title they may be the only avenue open to you. For certain years there are no compiled subject bibliographies. In these cases it is sometimes necessary to look at the national bibliography's entries, at least if they are organized by subject.
Many of the national bibliographic sources have specific subseries devoted to periodical publications. Some even contain indexes to periodicals. While these sources are changing rapidly, many now having a web component, it is useful to be familiar with the sources for your region.