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Biographies: Reference Sources

How to find out about the lives of other people, both the famous and the not-so-famous.

Print Reference Sources

Biographical information can be found in most reference sources, including dictionaries, almanacs, and encyclopedias.  In addition, there are dictionaries and encyclopedias devoted exclusively to presenting facts about the lives of a group of individuals.  Olympic College Libraries, like most libraries, keep their hardcopy reference sources separate from their main collections.  In Haselwood Library on the Bremerton campus the Reference Collection is located next to the first floor reading room in the northeast corner of the building.  Most of the biographical reference books are shelved in the Dewey Decimal Classification 920s numbers.  The following titles are two of the many reference sets in this area:

Biography Index. New York, H.W. Wilson. 1946-. A quarterly index to biographical works appearing in books and periodicals, covering a wide range of occupations and nationalities.  Includes a separate index by occupation. A record in Biography Index looks like this:   

Chihuly, Dale, 1941-

LaFerla, J. Following the Threads: Where Class and Fiber

 Intersect. il por. Fiberarts v30 no1 p48-53 Summ 2003.

 “Following the Threads….” is the article title, and it appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of a magazine called Fiberarts.

 The advantage of Biography Index is that its coverage extends much further back in time and covers many more scholarly publications than either ProQuest or EbscoHost.  The disadvantage is that users must search each volume of the index (28 so far), and then track down the articles.

 Current Biography. New York, H.W. Wilson. 1940- 

Another print periodical devoted to comprehensive articles on people in the news, politicians, sports figures, entertainers, and scientists.  Coverage begins in 1940 and each article includes a photograph and a short bibliography. Current Biography is located in the Reference Sections of the College’s Bremerton and Poulsbo libraries under the call number 920 Cu936cu.

 Source consulted:  Bolner, Myrtle S. & Gayle A. Poirier.  The Research Process: Books & Beyond (4th ed.)  Dubuque:  Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co., 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Electronic Reference Sources

As with all types of information sources, the number of electronic reference databases increases every year.  Most of them are proprietary databases that libraries either own outright or have subscriptions to.  Access is limited to authorized users, i.e., patrons of the library that has the database.  While they share many attributes of print sources, such as content written by authorities in the field, they also have many features unique to the electronic environment.  These are audio and video clips, links to vetted Web sites, and sophisticated internal search engines.

Depending on the subject of your search, you will find good biographical information in the following electronic Reference Databases.  They are accessed through the Olympic College Library Web site.  

The African American Experience 
A collection of full-text reference works, monographs, and primary sources covering almost every aspect of African American history and culture.

The American Indian Experience   
A collection of full-text reference works, monographs, and primary sources covering the history and culture of  indigenous populations.

Britannica 

For any research project, nothing beats an article from Britannica to serve as an overview. Britannica will also lead you to academically-vetted Web content, as well as full-text magazine articles. Because of the breadth of content, some students use Britannica as a one-stop destination for all their needs, especially for shorter assignments. Watch out for a European bias here, because some topics unique to the U.S. get ephemeral treatment.

The Latino American Experience  
A collection of full-text reference works, monographs, and primary sources covering almost every aspect of Latin-American history and culture.
 

Social Issues in America: An Encyclopedia 
Addresses nearly 170 timely American issues in breadth and detail, providing an introduction to the basic concepts, terminology, historical background, competing points of view, statistics, and research materials associated with each one.

Kitsap Regional Library subscribes to Biography Resource Center http://www.krl.org/index.php/krl-resources/research-and-more  You will need a KRL card number to access it.