Reference Products and Services: Historical Overview and Paradigm Shift

Reference Products and Services: Historical Overview and Paradigm Shift

Jack O’Gorman (University of Dayton, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-308-9.ch001


There is a paradigm shift in progress in reference collections affecting the content, format, and use of reference materials. This shift is a result of changing formats for reference products, and it presents challenges to traditional reference services. In order to better understand where reference collections are heading, we must take a look back to see how we got here. This chapter defines a reference paradigm, looks at the history of reference in libraries, and examines the shift from both a reference library product and reference service perspective. It also describes how major changes have impacted traditional reference titles and how libraries and users have adjusted to those changes.
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Reference Product Paradigm

Fred Kilgour, founder of OCLC, discusses in his 1998 work, The Evolution of the Book, the historical pattern of the book, “in which long periods of stability in format alternate with periods of radical change” (Kilgour, 1998, p. 4). He lays out the seven punctuations of equllibria of the book (see Table 1).

Table 1.
Clay tabletFirst Punctuation2500 BC
Papyrus RollSecond Punctuation2000 BC
CodexThird Punctuation150 AD
PrintingFourth Punctuation1450 AD
Steam PowerFifth Punctuation1800
Offset PrintingSixth Punctuation1970
Electronic BookSeventh Punctuation2000

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