Dartmouth College established sponsorship of the award in 1974 upon the suggestion of Dean Lathem, Dartmouth College librarian, who acknowledged that no special honor existed in the United States for distinguished achievement relating to the creation of works of reference resources centrally important to libraries and to the pursuit of learning. The American Library Association was accorded complete and independent authority by the college to govern its bestowal. Dartmouth College commissioned the internationally celebrated graphic artist Rudolph Ruzicka to design the bronze medal. Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, who presided not only over the arts and sciences, but over all intellectual aspects of human life, is featured against a filigree of olive branches.
A publisher of reference works can be nominated according to the following criteria: Works may include, but not be limited to, writing, editing, compiling, or publishing books or the provision of information in other forms for reference use, e.g., a data bank. Bestowal of the award shall normally relate to works that have been published or otherwise made available for the first time during the calendar year preceeding the presentation of the award.
The jury is a committee consisting of four RUSA members and the chair of the ALA Reference Books Bulletin Editorial Board. Members are appointed by the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) vice-chair and serve two-year terms. Consecutive terms are not permitted. Nominees will be reviewed in a closed meeting of the committee during Midwinter.
Send letters of nomination to the award committee.
Nominations must include the following information:
Use this link to view the committee roster.
The deadline for nominating a work is December 15.
1976 — No award
1977 — Atlas of Early American History: The Revolutionary Era, 1760-1790. Lester J. Cappon, ed. (Princeton University Press for the Newberry Library and the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1975)
1978 — International Encyclopedia of Psychiatry, Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Neurology, Benjamin B. Wolman, ed.-in-chief (Van Nostrand for Aesculapius, 1977)
1979 — The Encyclopedia of Bioethics, Warren Reich, ed.-in-chief (Free Press, 1978)
1980 — No award
1981 — Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Charles B. Gillispie, ed. (Scribners, 1981)
1982 — New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie, ed. (Stockton Press, 1980)
1983 — Congressional Information Service, Inc., for "The body of its reference works which provide exceptional access to current and retrospective publications of the United States Government and to statistical publications from a wide variety of sources."
1984 — The Times Atlas of the Oceans (Van Nostrand, 1983)
1985 — Wilsonline (The H. W. Wilson Company)
1986 — The International Encyclopedia of Education: Research and Studies (Pergamon Press, 1985)
1987 — The Encyclopedia of the American Constitution (Macmillan, 1986)
1988 — The Encyclopedia of Religion (Macmillan, 1987)
1989 — We the People: An Atlas of America's Diversity. (Macmillan, 1988)
1990 — Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (The University North Carolina Press, 1989) Honorable Mention: The Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Joseph Strazer, ed. (Scribners, 1989)
1991 — Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (Macmillan, 1989) Honorable Mention: Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710-1920. (Abbeville Press, 1990).
1992 — Atlas of United States Environmental Issues (Macmillan, 1990) Honorable Mention: The Reader's Companion to American History (Houghton Mifflin, 1991)
1993 — Encyclopedia of Sociology (Macmillan, 1992) Honorable Mention: The Oxford Companion to the English Language (Oxford University Press, 1992)
1994 — Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (Carlson Pub) Honorable Mention: Encyclopedia of American History (Charles Scribner's Sons)
1995 — Encyclopedia of the American Presidency (Simon & Schuster) Honorable Mention: Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre (Schirmer Books)
1996 — Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (Macmillan Library Reference/Charles Scribner's Sons) Honorable Mention: Encyclopedia of Bioethics (Macmillan); Encyclopedia of New York City (Yale University Press)
1997 — The Dictionary of Art (Groves Dictionaries) Honorable Mention: Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (Macmillan Reference); The Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia for Students (Charles Scribner's Sons); Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture (Charles Scribners Sons)
1998 — Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (Routledge) Honorable Mention: Encyclopedia of Africa: South of the Sahara (Charles Scribner's Sons); The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: Africa (Garland); Encyclopedia Judaica on CD-ROM (Judaica Multimedia)
1999 — American National Biography (Oxford Univ. Pr.), Eds. John A. Garraty & Mark C. Carnes. Honorable Mention: International Encyclopedia of Dance, (Oxford University Press); Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (Routledge); and The Columbia Gazetteer of the World, (Columbia University Press).
2000 — Encyclopedia of the Renaissance (Scribner's) Honorable Mention: Encyclopedia of Electrical & Electronics Engineering (Wiley), International Dictionary of Black Composers (Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers), and The Oxford Companion to Food (Oxford University Press).
2001 — Women in World History (Gale Group) Honorable Mention: Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, (ABC-CLIO, 2000) and Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences (Academic Press, 2000)
2002 — The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (Oxford Univ. Pr.) Honorable Mention: New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Grove’s Dictionaries, 2001)
2003 — Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (Routledge).
2004 — Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (Charles Scribner's Sons). Honorable Mention: Holocaust Literature: An Encyclopedia of Writers and Their Work (Routledge).
2005 — The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press).
2006 — Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film, Routledge/Taylor & Francis. Honorable Mention: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos & Latinas in the United States, Oxford University Press.