Whitaker’s almanac Much miscellaneous information about the British empire and other countries.
The annual Register; the new International yearbook; the American yearbook These three give information about the events of the preceding year.
Index to the London Times
Lippincott’s new gazetteer A geographical dictionary of the world.
The century Atlas With classified references to places.
The Handy reference Atlas Small size (octavo); a most useful book for the desk or library table.
PLOETZ’S epitome of universal history A very compact epitome of history, with all the important dates.
Notes and queries A periodical devoted to notes and queries on a multitude of curious and out-of-the-way facts; yearly index volumes are issued.
SONNENSCHEIN’S the best books A guide to about fifty thousand of the best available books in a great variety of fields, classified by subject.
Make yourself familiar with all of these books which are within your reach. Get into the habit, when you have a few minutes to spare, of taking them down from the shelves and turning over the pages to see what they contain. And whenever a question of fact comes up in general talk, make a mental note of it, or better, one in writing, and the next time you go to the library hunt it up in one of these reference books. You will be surprised to see, when once you have made the habit, how short a time it takes to settle disputes about most facts; and at the same time you will be extending your general knowledge.
In learning the use of these and other books, do not forget the most important source of all, the librarian. The one guiding principle of modern librarianship is to make the books useful; and it gives every proper librarian active pleasure to show you how to use the books in his charge.
In using books and magazines scrutinize the character of the source. Is it impartial or partisan? Is its treatment of the subject exhaustive and definite, or cursory and superficial? Does the author know the subject at first hand, or does he rely on other men? On such points the second book or article will be easier to estimate than the first, and the third than the second; for with each new source you have the earlier ones as a basis for comparison. In any case do not trust to a single authority: no matter how authoritative it is, sooner or later the narrow basis of your views will betray itself, for an argument which is merely a revamping of some one else’s views is not likely to have much spontaneity.