Reference Universe Preview

Preview by the CCL-EAR Committee

Reference Universe, offered by Paratext, is a unique database consisting of data gleaned from tables of contents and indexes from over 20,000 print and electronic reference books. The database includes books from a variety of publishers as well as e-collections offered by publishers such as Oxford, Gale, ABC-CLIO, Salem, CREDO, etc. Items in the database are identified and matched by ISBN numbers. Libraries can upload the ISBN numbers from their collections onto the vendor’s server and when a student conducts a keyword search in Reference Universe, the results will show a list of books in the library’s collection that have index headings or article titles containing their search terms. Thus students can enjoy enhanced access to the content of a library’s print collection rather than the more limited description usually supplied by the library OPAC. This database promises to make the library’s print collection visible and usable to more students. Ideally, a student working from home can begin looking for background information on their research topics and come to the library armed with a list of relevant books. Reference librarians assisting students will also appreciate this database as it will quickly pinpoint relevant books in the reference collection that will provide materials to meet a patron’s information needs.

This database has great promise for helping students to access high quality resources in a variety of formats quickly and easily. It’s also a great way for librarians to make better use of the quality resources in their own collections and in quickly directing students during a reference interview to the best resources to meet their needs. Libraries should make the choice to use this product, however, with full knowledge of the background work that will be needed in order for the database to provide accurate and useful results.

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If you have any experience with this product, please leave a comment and rate its appropriateness for use in a community college environment.

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