Encyclopedias, almanacs, handbooks, and other books in the 1st floor Reference Collection provide brief, reliable information about a topic. They are excellent starting points for research when you need to find background information, important concepts, related names and dates, and other key words you can use when searching for articles.
They are also an excellent place to start if looking for a topic to research - check the first pages (for "topic finders," "list of entries," "table of contents") and the back pages for the index for topic ideas.
Reference books can be used in the library, but they can't be checked out. However, you can request free photocopies at the reference desk!