Library’s reference books collection has a long history and is one of the richest in the country, a result of professional selection and consideration of contemporary library development tendencies. Its beginning was set soon after the Library establishment. Initially it consists mainly of Bulgarian reference editions. Even nowadays we have the first editions of Bulgarian encyclopedias, vocabularies, statistical and other reference books. Gradually lots of foreign books were supplied – one of the oldest encyclopedias and vocabularies in the Slavonic and the Western-European languages that every reference books collection was proud to have. Part of those reference books – Bulgarian and foreign – could be found only in our reference books collection
The appearance of a huge number of publications worldwide in the middle of 20th century and the necessity to cover, reveal and grant them for public use was the main reason for the Library to focus its efforts towards creation of the most wealthy reference books collection with universal contents – bibliographic indexes in the basic scientific disciplines and by types of publications, as well as factual reference books. Thus, regardless of Bulgarian poor financial resources that did not allow the supply of numerous foreign publications, the Library rich reference books collection made it possible to follow what publications, where, and by who were issued. The Law on deposit, by virtue of which the Library has all reference publications issued in the country, regulates the supply of Bulgarian publications.
In the beginning of 1980s the main reference editions, published in the well-developed countries, have already been available. The collection volume and contents were highly appraised by distinguished foreign specialists.
The subsequent development of the reference publications collection is in compliance with contemporary concept of transforming libraries, including national libraries, from depositories into institutions granting free access to the information. The main reason for that is the development of the information technologies and telecommunications, the emergence of electronic information documents and information databases. Thus, the initial idea for preserving a rich traditional type editions reference collection follows its natural continuation – the Library is trying to supply references in electronic version, primarily on CD-ROMs, and on-line databases.
The last decade of 20th century is associated with Internet invasion in library activities, as well as with the appearance of a huge volume specialized and universal databases. However, they are extremely expensive and libraries focused their efforts on creation of consortia in order to supply shared access to information on the basis of shared financing. Since 2000 the Library is a member of “Electronic Information for Libraries” Consortium where it has access to an enormous amount of serials on social and economical sciences, education, and medicine.
The Collection consists of two main groups of reference books – bibliographic and factual. The Bibliographic reference books are chiefly national bibliographies and indexes of the basic types of publications – books, serials, dissertations, official and governmental editions, and articles in serials. The Library aims to collect reference books of international scope and in all main European languages. At the same time it supplies basic factual information collected in universal and specialized encyclopedias, biographical references, vocabularies, statistical geographic reference books, annuals, etc.
Bibliographic reference books – the unique European countries national bibliographies collection provides information of books, dissertations, serials and articles, published on the territories of those countries.
Information concerning foreign books is supplied through the printed catalogues of world biggest libraries – the Congress Library, the British Library, the French National Library, numerous cumulative reference books – British books in print, American book publishing record, Les livres disponibles, etc., as well as through reference books including reviews of printed books.
The collection keeps also the main guidebooks to world serials and guidebooks with analytical article reviews – Internationale Bibliographie der Zietchriftenliterature aus allen Gebieten – the authoritative international bibliography that includes articles published in serials from over 80 countries; the Reader’s guide to periodical literature that offers analytical reviews of the articles in the American scientific serials; Bulletin synaletique, the Current contents – 7 series specialized guidebook that reveals the contents of a large number of authoritative scientific journals, etc. There are also many guidebooks, revealing the contents of scientific journals in the field of social and humanity sciences, techniques, medicine, etc.
All above-mentioned guidebooks have been supplied regularly in the course of many years, which additionally raises the value of this collection.
Factual information reference books – the rich collection includes extremely valuable foreign encyclopedias – all editions of the English, French, German, Italian, etc. general encyclopedias, and an impressive collection of specialized encyclopedias. Amongst the most interesting titles supplied in the last years are the Oxford illustrated encyclopedia; the Encyclopedia of higher education; the Encyclopedia of language and linguistics; the Encyclopedia of world cultures; the Great Islamic encyclopedia and many others.
The collection of dictionaries (terminological, linguistic, of abbreviations, etc.) is exceptionally rich. The same refers to the collection of biographic reference books – it holds information about persons of all nations and epochs. There are also a great variety of statistical, geographical, company information reference books, as well as annuals, almanacs and other reference books with mixed contents.
The organization of the reference books collection is in compliance with the specifics of its contents. The most up-to-date specialized reference editions build up the free access collections in the reading rooms, and the universal reference books are used in a separate specialized reading room. There is also a catalogue of the reference books. It includes the reference books available in the Library and is arranged in accordance with the classification scheme used for the other catalogues. A card index system is also created.
All readers of the Library may use the Bulgarian published production databases. The foreign publications databases are still not in free access – only the Bibliographical Information Center collaborators who make information references by reader requests use them.
The creation of a rich reference books collection and the development of all library and bibliographic activities are the main pre-requisite for a new high quality information service. The reference service is arranged in two levels in accordance with the widespread differentiated reference service practice of most big world libraries (i.e. to sift out readers’ requests by level of difficulty)- direction and orientation of readers, and preparation of written bibliographic checks to specific reader requests. We also prepare guidebooks, bulletins, etc. All information services are in the field of economical sciences and law, education, politics, history, culture.
The Library reference and information service development follows the leading well-developed countries trends in information service, although possibilities are greatly limited by the Library financial difficulties. The reference service specialists are also consultants, who help readers to orient themselves in the vast information databases offering them searching strategies in Bulgarian and other foreign languages.