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Library Lingo for Normal People: Reference

A guide to help non-librarians understand the terms and phrases we librarians throw around willy-nilly.

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What is reference?

The term "reference" in a library generally refers to two things: a type of information, and a person who answers questions.

In the context of information, "reference" usually means general information tools such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, government statistics, and atlases. You might have seen the "reference section" at SBU's libraries. These contain printed versions of these information tools. They can all be found online as well.

In the context of a person, "reference" means a person in the library whose job is to answer questions. At SBU, reference librarians are available to assist you almost anytime the library is open.

Still stumped?

Use the Contact links to the left to contact a librarian by phone, e-mail, or instant message. We're glad to help! In addition to the reference librarian who is on duty, you can also contact the library liaison for your academic area for help using resources related to your program.

Contact the Reference Librarian

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