The importance of evaluation -- “How does the librarian know whether a reference source is good, bad or indifferent? . . . [A] good reference source is one that answers questions and a poor reference source is one that fails to answer questions. Constant use in practice will help in identifying any source, (whether a book or a database) with one of these two categories.” (Katz, William A. Introduction to Reference Work: Vol. I, Basic Information Services, 8th ed. McGraw-Hill, 2002, p.26)
Of course, the first information you find may not always provide the correct answer. You and your patrons will want to check out the authority of the person(s) or organization responsible for a reference source; an authoritative source is the most likely route to accurate information.
Another reason to evaluate your resources carefully is to get the best value for your money. No library can afford to spend its budget on materials that aren’t useful. Careful evaluation of the resources you purchase will give you the best of the best. Even though it may be small, you will have a high quality collection that meets the needs of your patrons.
If you’ve done your homework on evaluating the materials in your collection, you are in a much better position to locate the information your patrons need, simply because you will know what you can find in each source.
You will want to learn how to evaluate two classes of materials: those you already have in your collection (so you know how and when to best use them), and those you are considering for purchase (so you know if they will meet your library’s needs). The next section will cover ways to evaluate materials you may want to buy.
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