There’s a very strange button on display here that says, “Reference Is Cool.” I thought it must be tongue in cheek, but there’s really and truly an established company that is using this as their tagline. I love reference–reference at its best, anyway–but only the oldest fogies could think that it is cool. (And I know how my kids feel about my using the word. Their comments do not bear repeating here.)
But I do love spending time with colleagues who understand and appreciate reference. These people are technically savvy and intellectually engaged: clever, curious people who understand that by putting lots of information together in the right ways we can create something that is more than the sum of its parts, and that an encyclopedia offers a unique combination of serendipity (Sexuality next to Sudan) and order. Chief among these enthusiasts and advocates are Eric Calaluca and Bob Asleson of Paratext. Their online database Reference Universe allows libraries to search across print and online holdings. Magic, certainly. And maybe even approaching cool–at least so I can imagine a student saying, as suddenly a list of articles about Genghis Khan pops into view. That term paper might be finished in time for the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, after all.