referenceOur libraries have traditionally provided a wealth of information resources in formats including books, maps, and videos. During the 1990s and early 2000s, many of these resources became available on CDs and DVDs. Although many reference materials continue to be available on disc, increasingly these materials are being converted to the web-based format. However those librarians serving rural areas may continue to support the disc format for those patrons without access to the Internet.

Informational resources provide text, sounds, and/or visuals related to a particular topic or area. You’ll find the same kinds of resources available in print formats including reference resources, nonfiction materials, and fictional works. You’re probably most familiar with the reference resources. Electronic encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, and atlases would fall into this category. References often provide general information about a topic.

eye means readingRead Digital Encyclopedias by Cynthia MacDonald in School Library Journal (11/1/2002). Explore their comparisons on digital encyclopedia.

Encyclopedia for Children and Young Adults

Many of the popular electronic encyclopedias contain over 10 million words, 25,000 articles, and 10,000 pictures plus sounds, animations, maps, and full-motion videos. The top choices include Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia, Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, World Book, Encyclopedia Britannica, The New Book of Knowledge, and The Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.

Encarta EncyclopediaMost of these are available in both CD and online versions. Many of the newest titles are also available on DVD. For example the Encarta Reference Library (shown on left) is on DVD-ROM. It include encyclopedias as well as other references.

You’ll also find electronic encyclopedias for young children such as Dorling Kindersley (DK) Interactive Learning's Eyewitness Children's Encyclopedia.

Go to DK: General Reference. Notice the wide range of reference products for children and young adults. Also notice the growing number of Apps.

Let’s say your students are starting a unit on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. An encyclopedia would provide good background information to kickoff your unit. For example, Encarta contains a map of the expedition and information about Lewis and Clark. In addition, students can see the expedition on a timeline related to other historical events of the time period. You’ll find similar information in Compton’s encyclopedia. Most CD encyclopedia contain multimedia elements such as photos, animations, and movies.

Subject Specific Encyclopedia

Our Living Oceans BoxLook for subject- specific encyclopedias such as the McGraw Hill Science and Technology Encyclopedia. DK has an “eyewitness” series containing titles in the areas of history, science, and nature including The Encyclopedia of Science, The Encyclopedia of Nature, and The Encyclopedia of Space. The History of the World and Chronicle Encyclopedia of History are others. Microsoft's Encarta series contains titles such as Africana and various language encyclopedia and dictionaries.

Recent titles from DK include Our Living Oceans and Encyclopedia of Endangered Wildlife.

Dictionary BoxBesides the encyclopedia, there are many other types of references available on CD and DVD such as general and subject specific dictionaries, thesaurus, atlases, and almanacs. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (shown on left) and Thesaurus is available on CD as well as DK’s My First Incredible, Amazing Dictionary which is designed for young children. DK’s Cartopedia and Eyewitness World Atlas provide a world reference atlas containing geographical information from around the globe. World Explorer

Many of the reference resources provide tools to help students explore and use information effectively. For instance, some provide educational games, report ideas, and notetaking options.

DK's World Explorer (shown on right) contains an option to create a "post card" for places in different parts of the world.



When selecting reference CDs, pay careful attention to the search tools provided.

In order to effectively use information resources, students need information skills. Children and young adults must be able to compare and contrast information resources for particular purposes. They also need to be able to distinguish between the different information channels and determine which channel is the best approach for the kind of information they are seeking or communicating. Channels can include visual (still and motion), audio, text, graphics, and tactile. Finally, they need to be able to apply search strategies to particular types of references. For example, they need to identify key words that they could use in searching an electronic encyclopedia.

Consider creating a chart that compares electronic materials. For example, you might compare Encarta, Encyclopedia Britannica, Eyewitness Children's Encyclopedia and World Book Encyclopedia.

encyclopedia options

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