The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship


Document Type


Publication Date



Purpose – To examine past, current, and future usage of encyclopedias.

Design/methodology/approach – Review the history of encyclopedias, their composition, and usage by focusing on select publications covering different subject areas.

Findings – Due to their static nature, traditionally published encyclopedias are not always accurate, objective information resources. Intentions of editors and authors also come into question. A researcher may find more value in using encyclopedias as historical documents rather than resources for quick facts.

Practical Implications—Academic librarians may begin to invest more selectively in encyclopedias, whether in print or electronic format, and market them differently to students and faculty.

Originality/value – This article explores the academic value of encyclopedias in the 21st century.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that has been accepted for publication in Reference Reviews. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication.

(Note: Comment will be updated with full citation and link when published.)



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.