Sunday, March 10, 2013

Encyclopedia and Dictionary


I grew up in a house with a big dictionary on a stand and a complete set of the 1962 World Book Encyclopedia.  The actual dictionary and stand are pictured below (that's not actually me or my old house, it's my nephew at my Mom's new condo).  I recently acquired a complete World Book Encyclopedia set identical to the one that I grew up with.

When I was in school, one of the key ingredients of every classroom was a dictionary and every school library was built around its encyclopedia, atlas, and other reference works.  To this day, the accrediting institutions still list the library with its book collection and reference materials as a key issue.

With a sweet sense of irony, I just looked up "encyclopedia" on Wikipedia and found:

...The beginnings of the modern idea of the general-purpose, widely distributed printed encyclopedia precede the 18th century encyclopedists. However, Chambers' Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1728), and the Encyclop√©die of Diderot and D'Alembert (1751 onwards), as well as Encyclop√¶dia Britannica and the Conversations-Lexikon, were the first to realize the form we would recognize today, with a comprehensive scope of topics, discussed in depth and organized in an accessible, systematic method... 

In the United States, the 1950s and 1960s saw the introduction of several large popular encyclopedias, often sold on installment plans. The best known of these were World Book and Funk and Wagnalls... By the late 20th century, encyclopedias were being published on CD-ROMs for use with personal computers. Microsoft's Encarta, launched in 1993...The 21st century has seen the dominance of wikis as popular encyclopedias, including Wikipedia among many others.
Random House Dictionary of English Language
Random House Dictionary of English Language

 Encyclopedia Britannica  -- at its peak, had around 2,300 in the sales force....A year ago this week, the last salesman for Britannica, Myron Taxman, retired.  He was 66. He began selling the encyclopedia at the age of 22, when he was still in college in Chicago. He sold the volumes for 28 years: to farmers and to new parents without much money, to a Bears quarterback and to film director John Hughes.  (Encyclopedia Britannica Salesman Mourns End Of Print Edition)
Another memorable aspect of the encyclopedia era was the door-to-door salesman who sold them.  A surprising number of people of my generation spent some time selling them.

What did the standards say about using reference works and finding them with alphabetical order?

Language Arts: K
Information and Media Literacy
Research Process: The student uses a systematic process for the collection, processing, and presentation of information. (LA.K.6.2)
The student will:
1. ask questions and recognize the library media specialist or teacher as an information source; (LA.K.6.2.1)
2. use simple reference resources to locate and obtain information through knowledge of alphabetical order, use of pictures, and environmental print (e.g., signs, billboards); (LA.K.6.2.2)

Language Arts: 2
Information and Media Literacy
Research Process: The student uses a systematic process for the collection, processing, and presentation of information. (LA.2.6.2)
The student will:
1. generate research questions by brainstorming, identify key words, group related ideas, and select appropriate resources (e.g., atlases, non-fiction books, dictionaries, digital references); (LA.2.6.2.1)
2. select and use a variety of appropriate reference materials to gather information and locate information using alphabetical order; (LA.2.6.2.2)


And who can talk about reference materials and refer to media centers or libraries without going back to the card catalogs and the Dewey Decimal System.