Reference Books Collection


The National Library’s collection of reference books has a long tradition and is one of the richest in the country. It is the result of a professional selection and is in line with the modern tendencies of the libraries’ development. Its building began shortly after the creation of the Library and initially consisted mainly of Bulgarian reference books. Today the collection contains the first editions of Bulgarian encyclopedias, dictionaries, statistics and other reference books. A number of valuable foreign reference books have been gradually collected – some of the oldest encyclopedias and dictionaries of Slavic and Western European countries, of the kind every library would have taken pride in having in its reference collection. Some of these reference books – of Bulgarian and foreign origin – can be found only in our reference collection.

The rise in the number of publications worldwide in the mid-20th century and the need for them to be collected, catalogued and made available for use to the readers was the primary reason for the Library to focus its efforts on building a large, universal reference books collection – bibliographic guides to major science and technology fields, sorted by all publications types as well as factual reference books. Thus, despite the limited financial capacities of the country, which did not allow the acquisition of many foreign publications, information was provided through the rich collection of reference books of the National library about the countries of origin of the publications and the names of the publishers. The acquisition of Bulgarian publications is regulated by the Law on mandatory deposit of printed and other publications; therefore the Library owns all the reference books published in our country.

In the early 1980s, the main reference books published in the developed countries were already acquired by the National Library. The size and content of the reference books collections was highly assessed by renowned foreign experts.

The further development of the reference books collection was in accordance with the contemporary view of transforming libraries, including the national ones, from repositories of publications into institutions providing access to information without borders. The main reason is the development of automated technologies and telecommunications, the emergence of electronic data carriers and automated databases. Thus the original idea of providing extensive reference books collection of traditional type of publications was further developed – the library seeks to provide reference books on electronic carriers, primarily on CDs, as well as databases running in online mode.

The last decade of the 20th century was characterized by high Internet penetration in the library activity, and with the advent of huge size of specialised and multidisciplinary databases. However, they are extremely expensive, so the libraries have focused on creating consortia to provide shared access to information based on shared financing. Since 2000, the National Library has participated in the Bulgarian Information Consortium, within which it has access to a huge number of periodicals on social and economic sciences, education and medicine. 

Content and Structure

The collection contains two main groups of reference books – bibliographic and factual. Bibliographical reference books are mainly national bibliographies and indexes for the main types of publications – books, periodicals, dissertations, official publications, articles in periodicals, the aim of which is to have international coverage and to be in the main European languages. At the same time the National Library provides basic factual information through universal and specialised encyclopedias, biographical reference books, dictionaries, statistical geography reference books, yearbooks, etc.

Bibliographic reference books – the National Library possesses unique collection of national bibliographies of European countries, which provides information about books, dissertations, periodicals and articles published on the territory of these countries.

In order to provide information on foreign books, printed catalogues of the largest libraries in the world are available to the readers – the Library of Congress, the British Library, and the French National Library, and several cumulative indexes – British books in print, American books publishing record, Les livres disponibles and others, as well as directories which include book reviews.

The collection also includes the main directories for the periodicals published in the world, as well as directories, that develop analytically the articles published in periodicals – the prestigious international bibliography Internationale Bibliographie der Zeitchriftenliterature aus allen Gebieten, which includes articles from periodicals from over 80 countries, Reader’s guide to periodical literature, which offers an analytical overview of the articles in the American scientific periodical, Bulletin synaletique, Current contents – a specialized directory in 7 series, which reveals the contents of a large number of reputable scientific journals published in the world and many others. The collection also contains many directories of scientific journals in the field of social sciences, humanities, technology, medicine, etc.

All the mentioned directories have been supplied regularly for many years, which further increase the value of this collection.

Reference books of factual information – the large collection includes extremely valuable foreign encyclopedias – all editions in English, French, German, Italian and many comprehensive encyclopedias, as well as an impressive collection of specialized encyclopedias. Among the more interesting titles collected in recent 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 is extremely large – glossaries, language dictionaries, glossaries of abbreviations, as well as the collection of biographical reference books – information about people of all nations and all ages can be found in it; there is a great variety of reference books with statistical, geographic and company information, yearbooks, almanacs, reference books with  mixed content, etc.

Organisation and Access

The organisation of the reference books collection is consistent with the specifics of the publications that build it. The most recent specialised reference books are available for use to readers in all reading rooms, while the universal reference books are available only in a specially designed separate reading room. All the reference books are available to all library patrons. Along with that, a catalogue of reference books has been developed, in which the reference books available at the National Library have been listed. It was arranged according to the classification scheme used in the other catalogues. A card index catalogue as well as an archive of written references has been developed.

The created automated databases of the entire Bulgarian publishing production are available to the readers of the library. Databases of foreign publications are available for free use to library patrons. Assistants of the Bibliographic and information services department prepare information products at the request of the readers.

Information Services

Creation of a large reference books collection as well as the development of all library and bibliographic activities at the National Library is the main prerequisite for providing information services on a qualitatively new level. In accordance with the common practice in most major libraries in the world to implement differentiated approach in reference services – i.e. assorting readers’ questions by degree of complexity, the reference service is organised on two levels – guiding readers first and  then preparation of written bibliographical references by library specialists on a specific reader’s request. Furthermore, library workers prepare directories, newsletters, thematic references with full texts of documents, citations references, etc. All information products are in the fields of economic and legal science, education, politics, history, culture.

The development of reference and information services at the Library follows the major trends in the information services of the developed countries, although the opportunities are severely limited by the financial difficulties the Library is experiencing. The reference service specialists are also consultants, which help patrons navigate the vast array of information, offering strategies for searching and finding relevant information – both in Bulgarian and in foreign languages.