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Instruction: Reference Services and Sources

About Reference Services

Most libraries have a place (online or virtual) where you can get help with using library resources.

There are three main types of reference assistance:

  • Assistance or instruction with using the library, including locating materials, using the library catalog, using computers to access information, and using basic reference sources.
  • Assistance identifying library materials needed to answer a question.
  • Providing brief, factual answers to questions, such as addresses, statistics, phone numbers, etc. that can be quickly located.



Reference Help at Rasmuson Library

We're here to help! Ask your question today.

About Reference Sources

Reference sources:

  • provide brief facts, statistics, technical instructions, or background information;
  • are not scholarly (peer-reviewed).

Types of Reference Sources

Although there are thousands of reference resources available, they can be categorized into a handful of groups.

Below is a quick guide for selecting the right type of reference source (Collins, 151):

For information about... Choose...
Words Dictionaries
General information/Overview of topic Encyclopedias
Names & addresses of people, organizations, institutions, companies Directories
Profiles of people Biographical Dictionaries
Places/Maps Gazetteers or Atlases
Facts and Statistics Almanacs
Formula, Tables, How-To-Do-It Handbooks and Manuals
A person's work Reviews or Criticisms
Dates, outlines, historical timelines Historical tables, Chronologies, Historical yearbooks
Periodical Articles Indexes or Abstracts
Books and other sources Bibliographies or Guides to Literature...

General and Specific Reference Tools

Reference materials may be general or subject specific. 

  • General reference sources include all subjects and present overviews of topics. 
  • Subjects specific reference sources provide in-depth coverage on specialized topics.

At Rasmuson Library a majority of our reference resources are online! Use Credo Reference to search hundreds of reference sources at once.

Finding Reference Sources at Rasmuson Library

Some of Rasmuson Library's reference books are available in print, but many are available online.

Rasmuson Library subscribes to Credo Reference and Oxford Premium Reference Collection. These databases contain both general and subject specific dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, and other reference material. 


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Credo Reference helps you build your research vocabulary with dictionaries, glossaries, thesauri, and other reference materials.

Works Cited

Collins, Donald, Diane Catlett, and Bobbie Collins. Libraries and Research: A Practical Approach, 3rd ed. Dubuque. IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1994.

Elmer E. Rasmuson Library
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Phone: 907-474-7481​​
Text: 907-341-4404​

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