Week 4: Almanacs, Yearbooks, and Handbooks


Internet Public Library

PAC Learning Resources Center

Merriam-Webster Online

Online Almanacs and Yearbooks Please explore thoroughly.

Ready Reference Materials Slide Show

Ready Reference Slide Show



Almanacs, Yearbooks and Handbooks

Almanacs are usually issued annually and compress a vast amount of information, both current and dated, into one book. They first originated to supply calendar and astronomical information. The word “almanac” was first used by Roger Bacon in the 13th century, and Benjamin Franklin was well known for putting together Poor Richard’s Almanac. The World Almanac and Book of Facts goes back as far as 1868. Information Please, which was first published in 1947, is another American almanac. Some states, such as Texas, also issue annual almanacs. Kane’s Famous First Facts has information about hundreds of “firsts” in American history. An example of that is that the first American passport was issued on July 8, 1796.

Almanacs have many lists of entries. The contents vary, depending on the publisher’s decisions as to the scope and the original source materials that were consulted.

Almanacs may contain information about the year’s political events and summaries of trends in a large range of fields, such as art and culture, education, business and industry, science and technology, sports and religion. They may carry lists of films, best-sellers, disasters, sporting records, biographies of important people, obituaries and crimes. Some give population statistics, brief histories, resources and government administrations for countries of the world, or have miscellaneous facts such as postal regulations, flags, income tax information, and such things as that.

Information is often condensed in lists and tables. The better almanacs include citations for the original source of the information. In some almanacs the index is in the front, sometimes doubling as a table of contents or located between the table of contents and the main lists of entries. In other almanacs it might be located in the back. The index may not give names of individuals, so you may have to look for them by subject. Also, if you know the year in which an event occurred, you should use the almanac for that year, and not the most current almanac.



Yearbooks are similar to almanacs, although they concentrate on statistical data and omit much of the miscellaneous information. The table of statistics included often cover a particular time span, rather than just one year.

Statistical yearbooks are generally arranged by country. For each they include basic information such as area, population, geographic features, government administration, births, deaths and marriages. They give facts on immigration, religion, education, finance, defense, communication, media, agriculture and commerce, and they describe national symbols such as anthems, flags and mottos.

The Statistical Abstract of the United States, first published in 1878, is the first print source for statistics of national importance, and provides ample references for additional information. Another useful yearbook is the Statesman’s Yearbook, which was first published in 1864. Even though it is published in the United Kingdom, it contains information about the entire world.

The CIA /World Factbook provides a variety of up-to-date information, including statistics and other data.



Handbooks incorporate miscellaneous facts relevant to a particular subject. Much of it is presented in condensed formats such as equations, formulas, tables, graphs or charts. Many people use them for quick reference in a variety of professions, including medicine, pharmacy, physics, chemistry, mathematics, law, psychology, engineering and librarianship.

The best known handbook that is used by the general population is the Guinness Book of Records. It includes records for the tallest, longest, fastest, highest, smallest, shortest, and so on across the range of natural phenomena and human endeavor.

Another useful exception for a handbook is a university handbook. You have probably used one to check on course requirements and class descriptions.

Among handbooks you might find interesting are those that deal with dates, anniversaries and holidays. Would you like to know when to observe National Procrastination Week? You could use Chase’s Calendar of World Events. Other handbooks cover occupations and vocational guidance, names and nicknames, trademarks, nutritional content of foods and legal rights for women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities. Field guides can help identify birds, flowers, reptiles, insects, shells, fish, trees and fungi.

Literary handbooks are a great help if you are studying English literature. The Dictionary of Literary Biography with nearly 200 volumes is a major source for biographies of authors, summaries of works, identification of characters, criticism and bibliographies. Contemporary Authors and Contemporary Literary Criticism are also sources for authors. Masterplots gives detailed digests of novels.

There are many manuals that give instructions, rules or procedures for performing certain tasks. They tend to be equated with “how-to” books. Subjects include parliamentary procedure, car and bicycle repair, home improvement, first aid, health and fitness, sports and games, gardening and etiquette.



Answer the following questions in the Discussions area of Canvas:

1. How often are almanacs, handbooks and yearbooks usually published?

2. Give two examples of almanacs.

3. What types of information can be found in an almanac?

4. Should you always use the most current almanac? Why or why not?

5. How is a yearbook different from an almanac?

6. How are statistical yearbooks arranged?

7. Give 5 examples of kinds of information found in a statistical yearbook.

8. Where is the Statesman's Yearbook published?

9. What kinds of information do handbooks contain?

10. What is the best known handbook?

Don't forget to take the quiz. (Go to Canvas in ACES.)

Colby Glass, MLIS, Professor Emeritus