The groupings that follow are a suggested purchase pattern. They should not be viewed as a rigid selection plan. The priority rankings, based on the general reference needs in small public libraries, are designed to offer guidance. Each library has its own unique needs that should be considered in building the reference collection. An annual assignment made by a local teacher or a particular local interest can place a demand on one library that is not shared by its neighbor.

The rankings are in two groups, “A. Continuations and Encyclopedias,” and “B. One-Time Purchases.” It is suggested that Groups A1-A2 should be purchased according to their publication patterns, either annually or biennially. Group A3 consists of works published annually that could be acquired every second or third year; if funds permit, they should be purchased more frequently. Group A4 lists encyclopedias, expensive purchases that should be updated at five- or six-year intervals.

Titles in Group B1 are likely to be the most essential reference tools and should be priority purchases. The remaining titles are ranked accordingly into four additional groups, B2 through B5. The suggestion is that libraries purchase items in B2 before those in B3, etc. Within each grouping, 17-20 titles are arranged alphabetically, not by rank. It should be noted that in instances where a source or the type of information it contains is available on the Internet, a library might opt to access the information electronically rather than purchase a print source. This choice is a worthwhile consideration in instances where there is infrequent need for the information it contains.

Libraries, of course, will hold a number of these titles. Check the lists against holdings to determine needs. In instances where the library holds an earlier edition of a work listed, consideration should be given to acquiring an updated version in order to provide more current information. It also should be clearly understood that the priority rankings are based on needs of libraries generally and should be viewed as suggestions. Because of local demands, there may be a title in Group B5 (the last group) that is essential in a given library and should be purchased along with other titles in the “first purchase” list (Group B1).


Group A1, purchase or acquire annually

  • Chilton’s auto repair manuals (for most popular models) S19
  • City directory (local) A7
  • Complete Guide to Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs S10
  • Consumer Reports Buying Guide Issue P2
  • Consumer Reports Home Computer Buying Guide P3
  • Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide P4
  • ESPN Information Please Sports Almanac Q2
  • Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs S11
  • Morning Star Mutual Funds N7
  • Standard & Poor Stocks and Bonds N9
  • Telephone directories (local and nearby) A9
  • World Almanac A6

Group A2, purchase biennially

  • Occupational Outlook Handbook M4
  • Texas Almanac A5

Group A3, purchase or acquire every 2-3 years (every year, if funding permits)

  • Guide Book of U.S. Coins Q7
  • Guinness Book of Sports Records Q3
  • Guinness World Records A3
  • Handbook of Denominations in the United States C5
  • Kovel’s Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide F4
  • National five Digit ZIP Code and Post Office Directory A8
  • Official Blackbook Price Guide to United States Postage Stamps Q8
  • Rand McNally Road Atlas L6
  • Statistical Abstracts H1
  • U.S. Government Manual J7

Group A4, purchase every 5-6 years (more often, if funding permits)

  • Encyclopedia Americana A12
  • World Book Encyclopedia A14


(Later revised editions of standard works should be purchased whenever possible.)

Group B1, recommended first purchases

  • Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations E14
  • Cornell Illustrated Encyclopedia of Health S3 (or another noted)
  • Dictionary of Modern English Usage D12
  • Dun & Bradstreet Guide to Your Investments N6
  • Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates A1
  • Hammond Atlas of the World L1
  • Handbook of Literature E3
  • How to Do Your Own Divorce in Texas K5
  • MLA Handbook for Writers D16 and A Manual for Writers of Term Papers D15
  • Merck Manual of Medical Information S6
  • Merriam-Webster’s Biographical Dictionary B5
  • Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary D2
  • New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual P16
  • New Fix-It Yourself Manual P17
  • New Handbook of Texas G6 or Portable Handbook of Texas G7
  • New York Public Library Literature Companion E5
  • Random House Roget’s College Thesaurus D6
  • Resumes That Knock ‘Em Dead M7
  • Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary D4

Group B2

  • American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid S12
  • Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia E1
  • Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography B4
  • Elements of Style D13
  • HarperCollins Bible Dictionary C1
  • Houseplant Encyclopedia P15
  • How to Clean Practically Anything P18
  • How to Cook Everything P6
  • How to Live and Die with Texas Probate K4
  • Merriam-Webster’s Medical Desk Dictionary S7
  • Neil Sperry’s Complete Guide to Texas Gardening P12
  • New York Public Library Business Desk Reference N1
  • New York Public Library Desk Reference A4
  • Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary D1
  • Oxford Companion to American Literature E7
  • Reader’s Companion to American History G5
  • Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy B9
  • Roget’s International Thesaurus D7
  • Ultimate Visual Dictionary of Science R5
  • Wall Street Journal Guide to Understanding Personal Finance N10

Group B3

  • American Veterinary Medical Association Presents: Care for Pets S15
  • Birds of Texas R9
  • Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable E2
  • CataLOG S17
  • Complete Book to Personal Legal Forms K1
  • Dictionary of American Slang D9
  • Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms N5
  • Dictionary of Legal Terms K2
  • Emily Post’s Etiquette P8
  • Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds S16
  • Field Guide to the Stars and Planets R7
  • Genreflecting E12
  • HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism C7
  • Native Texas Plants P11
  • Oxford Commentary C3
  • Oxford Dictionary of Quotations E15
  • Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia C9
  • Texas Atlas and Gazetteer L8
  • VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever F11
  • Webster’s New World Dictionary of Music F8

Group B4

  • American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms D8
  • American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening P9
  • Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals R12
  • Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable Television F12
  • Dictionary of Business Terms N2
  • Dictionary of World Mythology C10
  • Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music F7
  • History of Art for Young People F3
  • Howard Garrett’s Plants for Texas P10
  • Hoyle’s Modern Encyclopedia of Card Games Q6
  • Larousse Dictionary of World Folklore C12
  • New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible C2
  • Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words & Phrases D18
  • Oxford Guide to Supreme Court Decisions K3
  • Random House Webster’s American Sign Language Dictionary D11
  • Roads of Texas Atlas L7
  • Texas Snakes R16
  • Where to Write for Vital Records A10

Group B5

  • Anniversaries and Holidays P1
  • Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques F2
  • Cambridge Guide to American Theatre F10
  • Encyclopedia of World History G1
  • Essential Visual Guide to Snakes of the World R15
  • Family Fun and Games Q5
  • Famous First Facts A2
  • Guide to Texas State Agencies J9
  • Historical Atlas of Texas G8
  • Larousse Dictionary of Scientists R4
  • Merck Veterinary Manual S18
  • Oxford Dictionary of Saints C8
  • Penguin Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture F6
  • Peterson’s Top 2,500 Employers M5
  • Robert’s Rules of Order K9
  • Rules of the Game Q4
  • Sibley Guide to Birds R10
  • Texas Bug Book P13
Page last modified: March 2, 2011