Library lingo can be confusing. Did you know there’s a difference between a reference book and a Reference book (with a capital R).
A reference book, with a little R, is a nonfiction book that you might consult for a specific fact, like an atlas. Most people aren’t interested in reading a dictionary or an encyclopedia from cover to cover, and those are considered reference books too.
And then there’s the big R “Reference” books. In the library world, these books can’t be checked out to take home. Often, a Reference book is especially large, expensive, or rare; sometimes they are part of a set that doesn’t make sense if one book is checked out. Books that don’t check out are shelved separately in a Reference section and the call number on the spine includes “REF” at the beginning.
Let’s say you’re interested in the Wyoming cattle industry. You might read a fiction book for its story, such as The Virginian by Owen Wister, and a nonfiction book to learn some history, such as The Johnson County War by Bill O’Neal. You could consult a reference book like the Wyoming Atlas to find out where all those events happened. Maybe you’ll come up to the third floor Special Collections Room to look at our 1955 copy of Wyoming’s Pioneer Ranches in the Wyoming History collection. Since it doesn’t check out, it’s considered a Reference book.
And if you still have questions, ask a staff member – we’ll be glad to help!