USES OF ENCYCLOPAEDIAS
In this section, we will discuss various uses of these encyclopaedias. An encyclopaedia is a store house of knowledge and provides information on all subjects. They form the backbone of the reference work in a library. Many of the users take reference book as encyclopaedia without differentiating them with each other. Even though number of reference books are available in the library, librarian first go to encyclopaedia for finding information. In earlier days, encyclopaedias were referred only by elite but now, the are used by all the common people. They are very popular among students and research scholars.
i) Encyclopaedias are looked for concise, digested and in some cases simplified account on a topic on which otherwise there may be abundance of available literature.
ii) Encyclopaedias also help us in such cases where the topic of enquiry is very restricted in scope and the library has no book on the topic.
iii) Encyclopaedias generally present information in an impartial manner, giving all the view points on a subject.
iv) They attempt to provide essential historical background to the topic of enquiry:
v) References generally listed at the end of a brief or detailed description are selective and provide important help for further study of the topic.
vi) Very often encyclopaedias are the only source for biographical information on an other wise minor figure not covered in standard biographical dictionaries.
vii) The earlier editions of encyclopaedias have their own value. They are a rich source for an account of state of knowledge at a given time on any topic that may be omitted from subsequent writings on the subject. Encyclopaedia Britannica 9th and 11th editions are often cited as examples for their scholarly articles.
viii) The index is the most valuable part for accessing information on topic not featured in the main body of an encyclopaedia.
ix) The role of illustrations in making a subject more comprehensible can be hardly overemphasised. Colour plates, black and white photographs and line drawings in encyclopaedias not only add to their aesthetics but are a great help in
x) Scholarly treatment of subject is one point on which editors of encyclopaedias lay special emphasis. Without denying the reality in the statement "Do not rely on encyclopaedic work, judge each statement and do your best to verify it".
"General encyclopaedia can serve as a gateway to understand the most profound or intricate knowledge human beings have yet produced". As Grogan has rightly pointed out, New Britannica availed the services of 4300 scholars including
Nobel Laureates, Milton Friedman and Linus Pawling, etc., in making the set.