General Reference



Sean Knowlton


Head of Digital Scholarship and Initiatives

Librarian Phone Number

(504) 314-7823

Librarian Email

Dept Web Site


Program Description

The User Services division of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library aims to connect library resources with library users. To achieve this end, the division engages in a variety of activities and services, most of which depend on an up-to-date, balanced, and subject-appropriate collection of reference materials. Through these efforts, the division seeks to build and maintain the Library's General Reference Collection, which should provide the optimum support for the full range of teaching, research, and administrative activities of the Tulane University community. In addition, the division collects reference sources which will effectively support the University's general information needs in subject areas not covered by its instructional and research programs.

Subject Resource Guide


The General Reference Collection includes reference sources in a variety of formats in all fields of the social sciences, humanities, sciences and engineering that are currently included in the curriculum of Tulane University. Information from the Tulane course catalogs, descriptions of departmental degree programs, and all of the subject-specific library collection development policies are considered in building and maintaining the reference collection. Information on the number and types of degrees offered, depth of stated faculty research interests, numbers of students, and other factors all help in determining the level of detail at which materials in various subject areas are selected for the General Reference Collection. Reference materials in subject areas that are primarily collected by any of Tulane's branch or departmental libraries are typically either excluded from, or are added to the General Reference Collection very selectively, to avoid duplication of resources. Whenever possible, however, electronic resources are purchased and made available to the Tulane community as widely as possible.


Materials sought for the collections include all typical reference works: almanacs, yearbooks, general encyclopedias, language dictionaries, grammar & usage handbooks, thesauri, atlases, gazetteers, periodical indexes and abstracts, directories, handbooks, research guides, bibliographies, statistical compendia, special-subject dictionaries and encyclopedias, library catalogs, union lists, biographical dictionaries, directories, quotation books, and writing style manuals; travel guides, bibliographic databases; and full-text reference databases. Standards and industrial/engineering specifications are not collected.


Materials added to the General Reference Collection generally include only print resources and electronic formats. Whenever possible, electronic sources are purchased via web-subscriptions to provide the widest possible access to the Tulane community. Whenever appropriate and available, general reference works in electronic format are made available either through purchase, subscription or free links from the Library's web page. Reference materials in CD-ROM format are added to the collection selectively, as the facilities and equipment for housing and using CD-ROM have been limited. At present, except for the few inexpensive CD-ROM sources added to the General Reference Collection, electronic reference sources are selected by the Selection Committee for Electronic Databases (SCED) which reviews multidisciplinary database requests, and these titles are purchased from the Library's Electronic Serials fund.


English-language materials comprise the majority of the collection, but materials in other major, western-European languages are regularly added as well, when appropriate. An effort is made to include in the collection general encyclopedias from the major western-European countries. Reference sources in non-western languages are added only selectively.

Chronological Period

The collection aims to include the most current and authoritative reference works in all fields included in the scope of the collection. Because the collection supports in-depth research in a wide range of subject areas, materials dealing with all time periods, including historical approaches, are sought for the collection.

Imprint Date

The majority of materials added to the collections will be materials published in the last 3-5 years, with an emphasis on the most current and up to date titles. Again, because the collection supports in-depth research in a wide variety of subject areas, many older, "classic" reference works are considered integral to the collection. Retrospective collecting is done selectively, as budgets permit, usually to fill in gaps in the collection or to increase subject coverage as necessitated by additions and/or changes to the University's curriculum.

Geographical Considerations

Materials treating all geographical areas included in the University's curriculum and research parameters are sought for the collection. The tendency is for these to focus on the Americas, Europe, and Africa but works with an international, comparative focus are also selected as regular components of the collection. Works concentrating on other or highly specialized or localized geographical areas are considered selectively.

Related Collections

Cooperative Resources

The Howard-Tilton Memorial Library is one of 14 members of a cooperative consortium of southern research libraries called KUDZU, which includes a shared online catalog. Loan requests through this system receive priority processing and expedited two-day delivery. The library is also a member of the cooperative Center for Research Libraries (CRL) in Chicago, through which we may borrow a wide range of rare materials for our users. Undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty may borrow materials directly from the main library nearby at Loyola University of New Orleans through a reciprocal agreement called TU/LU. Graduate students and faculty may borrow materials at other New Orleans area academic libraries, and at other academic libraries throughout the state, through the LALINC consortium. For more information about cooperative borrowing privileges inquire at the library's Check-Out Desk.

Endowed Funds

At present, several endowed science/engineering funds available to augment the General Reference Collection budget. The following funds are utilized to selectively purchase special materials in the indicated subject areas: Dennery (chemistry); Harrod (engineering); Riess & McDonald (civil and environmental engineering); Rooney (chemical engineering).

Selection Tools

Materials are routinely selected by regularly reviewing titles sent through the YBP's approval books plan, and by examining book notification slips from all of the above-mentioned approval plans. In addition, publishers catalogs, fliers, other announcements, and book reviews are regularly scanned for possible additions to the General Reference Collection. Book reviews and other listings from the following publications are regularly consulted to further evaluate available materials: Choice; Booklist; RQ; Library Journal; The Journal of Academic Librarianship; ARBA; Reference Services Review.