v23 #4 From the Reference Desk

by | Oct 5, 2011 | 0 comments

by Tom Gilson  (Associate Editor, Against the Grain, and Head of Reference Emeritus, College of Charleston,
Charleston, SC 29401)  <[email protected]>

In an era of lowered expectations, ABC-CLIO is bucking the trend.  The World History Encyclopedia (2011, 978-1851099290, $1,845) is a “big ticket” 21-volume set being published at a time when reference budgets are in steep decline, and the validity of reference collections themselves are in question.  However, after examining this set it appears that ABC-CLIO is hedging their bets a little.  Not only is this title available as an eBook, but the set had been organized with the flexibility that today’s market demands.

After much time, thought, and discussion, editors Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel, along with their team, decided to forgo “the standard A-Z organization of entries” and developed the encyclopedia along “coherent periods or eras” much in line with the National Standards for World History established in 1994.  In order to make the final product as current as possible, the editors mildly altered this schema “in light of our 21st-century purposes and perspectives.”  The result was a reference set divided into nine distinct eras starting with Beginnings of Human Society and proceeding to Early Civilizations, 4000-1000 BCE; and Classical Traditions, 1000 BCE-300 CE.  These are then followed by Expanding Regional Civilizations, 300-1000; Intensified Hemispheric Interactions, 1000-1500; The First Global Age, 1450-1770; The Age of Revolutions, 1750-1914; Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945; and Promises and Paradoxes, 1945-Present.  Except for the single-volume Beginnings of Human Society, each of these eras is discussed in two or three volumes that in a sense constitute “mini encyclopedias.”  In turn, these eras are then discussed as they relate to eight themes including population and environment and society and culture as well as migration and travel; politics and statecraft; economics and trade; conflict and cooperation; thought and religion; and science and technology.

Admittedly, this is far more complex than an alphabetical arrangement, but it also makes more intellectual sense.  It provides readers with chronological but nuanced approach that allows for a far better conceptual understanding of the history being covered.  It also weaves the vast tapestry of world history into discrete, interrelated sections that can be more easily grasped and understood.  As a by-product of this, ABC-CLIO has also published an encyclopedia that can be either part of a reference collection as a 21-volume set, or be part of a circulating collection as nine “mini encyclopedias,” hence offering the market flexibility mentioned above.

While each of the major era sections or “mini encyclopedias” are divided into the same eight themes, the articles within each theme are tailored to the era being discussed.  Thus essays covering Society and Culture in Classical Traditions, 1000 BCE-300 CE are markedly different from those in Promises and Paradoxes, 1945-Present.  However, the quality of the discussions remains high throughout.  The articles are written in a fashion that places the facts, events, and people within relevant and meaningful context.  Sidebars are a major value added element common in all of the era sections.  They provide useful timelines, primary source excerpts, and references to major technological advances as well as transformative writings, arts, social movements, and ideas.  Numerous maps, illustrations, and photos complement the text and brief but helpful bibliographies are interspersed throughout.

Normally, one would expect a comprehensive and thorough index for a multi-volume set with this type arrangement.  In this case you would be disappointed.  The index here is more like a supercharged table of contents.  It is a list of significant subject themes arranged alphabetically across eras with references to specific article titles within each era.  Of course, relevant pages are listed but those looking to dip into this index to locate a specific fact will be left adrift.  However, as mentioned before, specific facts and events are not what the World History Encyclopedia is all about.  It is about pulling together the facts and events of world history into understandable themes and concepts.  In support of this, the index does provide a strong sense of what topics and subtopics are discussed era by era.

There is little doubt the World History Encyclopedia is an impressive and ambitious reference solidly grounded in modern scholarship.  It boldly sets out to organize all of world history into accessible, well-integrated components and make them understandable and relevant to today’s student.  In a large measure, it succeeds admirably and this is no mean feat.  The editors and contributors should be proud of this 21-volume set and deserve to be congratulated for their efforts.  Both students and teachers of world history, from high school to college and university, will benefit from the insights this work provides.  As mentioned above, it is not a set to be dipped into for the casual fact.  It requires time and thoughtful examination for readers to derive its full benefit, but the effort is well worth it.  Obviously given the price and the size of the set, libraries will have to measure cost against patron benefit.  But for academic and larger high school and public libraries, it is more than worth serious consideration.

(Libraries looking for a more traditional organizational approach and with fewer dollars to spend would be well-advised to consider the 2nd edition of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History (2010, 978-1-933782-65-2, $875).

 

Interest groups and lobbyists may not be held in high esteem by main street America, but they undoubtedly play a significant role in our government and politics.  In fact, they have become a major subfield in the study of American politics by professional scholars.  These groups advocate a myriad of issues and effectively articulate their positions affecting the passage of legislation and the implementation of policy.  And while some may think that interest groups and lobbyist are a recent phenomenon, they are as old as the republic.  All this becomes quickly apparent to readers of CQ Press’ Guide to Interest Groups and Lobbying in the United States (2011, 978-1604264579, $185).

This is another reference organized around large thematic sections or parts.  These parts focus on interest groups as seen through the prism of history, theory, the growth of government, and specific sectors like agriculture, defense and education.  In addition, themes include lobbying tactics, techniques, and regulation as well as lobbying in relation to political campaigns and election, and of course money.  And while we often think of lobbying and interest group politics as being focused in Washington, part of the guide is devoted to lobbying beyond the beltway with discussion of the influence of interest groups in state and local politics as well as how the American lobbying style is being employed worldwide.

CQ Press has long specialized in publishing carefully-researched and informed reference works on American government and politics.  The Guide to Interest Groups and Lobbying in the United States continues in that vein and adds another impressive title to their list.  The essays here are not only fact-filled but revealing of the complexities of interest group advocacy and lobbying as well as the unique role they play in government and politics.  Each article is thorough and grounded in solid scholarship, as the extensive notes and suggested readings will attest.  Not only will the Guide serve as core reference work for background research, it will make thought-provoking reading for students of political science and public administration as well as interested lay readers.  Elected officials and lobbyists might also benefit from thumbing through its pages or visiting it online.  Academic libraries as well as larger public libraries where patron interest in politics is high should welcome it on their shelves.  It is also one of those titles that, depending on need, could be placed in either reference or circulation, or both.  For online pricing, point your browser to http://www.cqpress.com/product/2480.html.

(Law libraries needing a user’s manual for compliance to recent laws and regulations might consider The Lobbying Compliance Handbook: A Practitioner’s Guide in the Age of HLOGA (2009, 978-1-880873-79-3, $489 loose-leaf w/three-ring binder; $489 (electronic version) from Columbia Books, Bethesda, MD.)

 

Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation (2010, 978-1598842432, $180) is a two-volume work recently published by ABC-CLIO that could appeal to a broad audience.  Despite being a serious and academic reference work, the popularity of this topic could be intriguing enough for public libraries and even some larger high school libraries to consider it.  Admittedly the academic approach may be too much for some, but serious readers and students will find real value in this set.

This is nominally a second edition of an earlier work that was well-received but has gone out of print.  However, given the claims of editors Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth, it is practically a first edition with 75% of the content being new.  Added to the enhanced content, the alphabetical arrangement of the 2001 version has been abandoned.  Instead, the editors have chosen to organize the first volume geographically and the second volume topically, therefore providing a better sense of context.  This arrangement also reduces “redundancy while still allowing for coordination and collaboration between entries.”  Volume I is divided by large regions like Africa, East Asia, and Europe and then subdivided into sections like Zulu Stick Fighting, Japan: Aikido, and Savate, Chausson, and French boxing.  Volume II focuses on themes ranging from belief systems to secret societies and globalization to political uses of martial arts as well as from martial arts in the media to military, paramilitary, and law enforcement methods.  By cutting such a broad swath, the Encyclopedia is able to offer articles on topics as diverse as European Chivalry, Japanese Budo, International Karate, martial arts tourism, women’s freestyle wrestling, and warrior societies.  Obviously, the resulting work is not a manual of techniques or a discussion of the effectiveness of the martial arts.  It is rather a scholarly attempt to view the development and practice of martial arts from the perspective of other disciplines including “anthropology, foreign language, history, kinesics, sociology, and theater.”  Hence the martial arts are revealed as far more complex and rich than the image often portrayed in popular culture.

Anyone doubting that the martial arts are a legitimate field worthy of scholarly interest need only examine Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation to be convinced otherwise.  This reference offers meticulously-researched articles steeped in history, culture, social context, and the arts.  Each article has a bibliography of relevant scholarly sources, and “see also” references lead readers to related articles of interest.  As noted above, a variety of libraries could benefit from having it in their collections.  Given its structure and subject focus, it might be more appropriate as a circulating title in a number of instances.

Those interested in the availability and pricing of the eBook can call 800-368-6868 ext. 4 or email <[email protected]>.

 

The Encyclopedia of Disaster Relief (2011, 978-1412971010, print $350, electronic $440) discusses concerns and events that have been in the forefront of the news repeatedly.  But perhaps more importantly, this Sage Reference focuses on preparedness and response, offering clarity and definition to a rapidly evolving area of study.  Edited by K. Bradley Penuel and Matt Statler, this two-volume set consists of 425 articles that cover the “concepts, issues, and techniques” of emergency preparedness and response, in addition to describing numerous individual disasters.  In their introduction, the editors state that they “believe that hope lies in multidisciplinary collaboration” in dealing with disasters.  The Encyclopedia is informed by this perception and draws from a variety of disciplines bearing witness to this belief.

Unlike the previously-discussed titles, this work utilizes a more traditional alphabetical arrangement.  Fortunately, there is a Reader’s Guide that gives a sense of the full coverage of the set while also serving as a finding aid for related entries.  Articles are grouped around major themes from geography to preparedness; local response to mitigation; and infrastructure to medicine and psychology.  In addition, there are also articles discussing the sociology of disaster, politics and funding, science and prediction, government and international agencies, and of course, specific natural and human induced disasters.  The articles are descriptive and factual but in a number of cases can be analytical and proscriptive, particularly when discussing things like mitigation, preparedness, and response.  Helpful “see also” references are included for each entry.  Other value-added elements include a glossary, a resource guide and an appendix that includes the Department of Homeland Security’s National Preparedness Guidelines.  There is just one caveat; the bibliographies could be more substantial.

As noted above, The Encyclopedia of Disaster Relief is grounded in the scholarship of numerous fields; however, it also has a very practical mission.  One of the real concerns here is the resulting human need that comes with any disaster.  These two volumes not only describe these needs but also discuss the tools, techniques, and methods needed to meet them.  As such, the editors have produced a uniquely valuable work that will be eagerly sought after by practitioners as well as students and scholars.  Larger public libraries as well as academic libraries, should have it on their short list.

 

The ALA Guide to Economics and Business (2011, 978-0-8389-1024-5, $65) is the latest in a series of “authoritative bibliographies” drawn from the American Library Association’s online Guide to Reference.  As such, it is part of a highly-regarded lineage of classic reference works that can be traced to the first edition of the Guide to Reference Books initially published in 1902.

However, as the title indicates this reference has a unique focus.  Edited by Elizabeth Leonard, it consists of 1,380 individual entries that supply annotated citations to unique resources on numerous areas related to business and economics.  Topic coverage ranges from basic industry information like financial ratios and statistics to sources focused on specialized industries running the gamut from agribusiness to biotechnology; food and beverage to pharmaceuticals; construction to telecommunications, and media to utilities.  There are also sections that guide readers to resources providing information about companies, careers and occupations, economics and world trade, and regional economics as well as those providing resources on functional areas of business from accounting to electronic commerce and business law to operations management.  These sections are further divided by source types like atlas, encyclopedia, handbook, Internet resource, etc.  Each book entry provides basic bibliographic information including author, title, publisher, place of publication, date, ISBN (or ISSN), and the Dewey decimal and LC classification numbers.  The numerous Websites listed include similar information as well as relevant URLs.  The annotations are thorough, and the source descriptions very valuable.  One caveat, more information could be provided for the electronic versions of the print sources cited, particularly whether they are available directly from the publisher or via databases like NetLibrary or ebrary.  Many of these entries end by merely noting “available as an eBook.”

Regardless, the ALA Guide to Economics and Business is a well-constructed, thoughtfully-produced professional resource that will assist both librarians and patrons in locating the most relevant resources, both print and electronic, for numerous topics in economics and business.  Although drawn from an online resource that primarily serves academic libraries, this handy guide will be of equal value to public libraries with active business clienteles.  In short, business librarians of all stripes will want it within handy reach.

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