Reference Tools

Learning Tip: What is a Reference Book/Tool?

Reference books and materials are research tools that provide quick information on a topic. Some types include encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, and directories. (For example, you may "refer" to an encyclopedia article about a famous person you've never heard of to get a basic overview of who they are and key facts about their life.) They can be available in print at the library or online like the ones below. 

When to use them: Reference materials are most useful in the beginning of your research. They can be a helpful starting point if you have no background knowledge about your topic and need a quick, 1-2 paragraph explanation before you start looking. 

*Requires library card number and PIN to sign in.

Elementary School & Middle School

*Britannica School Editions (Links Below): Age-appropriate encyclopedias and related materials for students.

eBooks Minnesota: Downloadable nonfiction and reference books for homework, plus contemporary fiction and classics. Available to all Minnesotans with no checkout required. For best experience, view on the web or use the MackinVIA app.

High School and Above

*Reference Books Online: Over 2000 online books for all ages that you can download or use online that offer general reference works (such as encyclopedias) and specific reference works on the arts, biography, business, education, the environment, history, law, literature, medicine, multicultural studies, religion, science, social science, technology, and cultures of the world.

*Student Resources in Context: Designed for both homework and in-depth research assignments. Contains reference works, biographies, essays, overviews, primary works, images and periodical articles on all core subjects, from science to literature to history.