Before Google was a verb, and before we carried the internet around in our pockets, checking the World Book Encyclopedia was a popular way of looking for new information. Librarians used it. Students used it. If you were lucky enough, your family had it’s own set – with the annual “Year Book” updates too – and you didn’t have to go to the library to work on papers for school.
The World Book Encyclopedia debuted in 1917 with 8 volumes. (the 2016 edition has 22) In the 6th book “E” the entry for Encyclopedia begins “Encyclopedia is a collection of information about people, places, events and things.” Followed by a 6 page article on the history of encyclopedias and how they are created – from the editors who select the experts in various fields to write each article, to the artists and layout experts who add the photographs and illustrations to compliment or supplement the text. There is a 12 part graphic that lets you follow the creation of an individual World Book article.
Kids are full of questions, and my parent’s standard response to an off the wall question was often “Go look it up.” Not because they didn’t know the answer, but because they knew that for their overly-curious children, reading one entry in the World Book often led to an hour curled up on the floor by the bookcase reading other entries.
Seeing the Library’s brand new 2016 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia appear in the Reference Collection recently makes me want to sit on the floor and start flipping pages.