BOOK AND SOFTWARE REVIEWS
Duckett, Bob, Walker, Peter and Donnelly Christinea. Know it all, find it fast: an A-Z source guide for the enquiry desk. 3rd ed. London: Facet Publishing, 2008. xvi, 480 p. ISBN 978-1-85604-652-7. £34.95.
The third edition of a reference book shows that it is a requested and successful item. Even more so in this case: Know it all, find it fast received the Reference Reviews award for the Best General Reference Work of 2003.
Let us look into what is so wonderful about it.
The first important advantage is a well-defined target group and aim that this reference book is supposed to serve. The book has to aid librarians at the reference desk to orient themselves in the mass of available information sources and to find the answers quickly. The target group and aim are not only well defined: the authors know their work and types of problems they have to solve as well as the tools that are used for these purposes. That particular knowledge helped them to compile adequate content and find the right way of presenting it. Though my experience in serving the public at the reference desk is not very deep and rather ancient (or maybe because of that), I have immediately appreciated the way of presentation and the structure of the guide. They suit the habitual ways of information finding by librarians.
The alphabetical arrangement of the sources according to the subjects (e.g., Astronomy or Beer) and objects (e.g., Telephone directories or Pseudonyms) that one can find in them, allows the user to find a required item almost immediately without a necessity to rack one's brain for subtleties of any other subject classification. The index helps one to find even more detailed information on subjects included in the text.
Immediately after each heading one can find typical questions usually associated with the types of sources collected under in the chapter. In the Considerations immediately after the questions one can find some comments that may be helpful in conducting the interview with the user, or getting general understanding of the types of sources. The sources themselves are divided at least into two groups (printed and electronic), but in each case the sub-categories can be much more detailed and will accommodate their specific features (e.g. the chapter on Family history and genealogy lists Introductory sources, General databases, Biographical sources, Burgess and electoral rolls, voters' lists, Census data, Civil registration, Deeds, etc.).
The minimal information given about the source is a short bibliographic description, but in most cases more extensive characteristics and comments about the character of data and ways of using it are provided.
The guide is in English and can be used mostly in libraries serving English speaking population by English speaking librarians. It would be difficult to imagine that this volume will help quickly to find anything in my native Lithuanian. Nevertheless, many indicated sources are available on the Internet and many reference materials in English mentioned in the book are available in non-English libraries around the world. Thus, it may not be an entirely bad idea to acquire this guide for them—at least one copy to use as a good example in creating other help tools for reference librarians in all possible languages. After all, they help to make us, the librarians, the only professionals in the world who know everything about everything!
Prof. Elena Maceviciute