The eleventh edition of the Guide to Reference Books was edited by Robert Balay. Published in Chicago by the American Library Association. The 1996 edition was listed in Books In Print with Reviews as $275.

Typical Question:

”What are the leading reference books on companies? Sports? Theater? Scholarships? Mechanical engineering? Magazines?”


Single volume. Print. Revised about every ten years, with a midterm update volume.


The purpose of The Guide To Reference Books is to select and describe the most useful of the available reference sources.


  • Emphasizes printed works published in North America.
  • English language sources predominate.
  • Yet “Sources important in reference work are included without regard to language.”
  • Evaluated for authority, completeness, coverage, accuracy, and above all, usefulness.”
  • Machine-readable sources are flagged by a bullet, both in the main entry and in the index.
  • The eleventh edition of the Guide To Reference Books addressed a perceived weakness in coverage of regions outside of Europe and North America, ethnic groups inside North America, homosexuals, and to women.
  • 16,000 entries.


Geared toward college students. For academic, public, and special libraries, primarily in North America.

Dates of Coverage:

Books that were published between the 1700s and 1993.

How to use:

There is a detailed index by author, title, and subjects. Arrangement is by five subject divisions

Strengths and Weaknesses

Emphasis is on print over electronic sources.

The Guide to References Books is more descriptive than evaluative.

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