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Moore and Stephenson (no dates). American Library Association Twenty-first annual conference, Atlanta, Georgia, May 8-13, 1899. Courtesy

Are you exploring possible career paths?  Considering starting up a business of your own?  Looking for guidance on marketing your services as a private contractor?  Trade and professional associations are a useful resource in all of these circumstances.  They offer opportunities to learn about a career or business field, connect with other professionals, and benefit from special services provided to association members.

How do you find associations in your field?  A simple keyword Internet search (for example, paralegal associations) might be all you need.  On the other hand, there are advantages to using selective, published association directories, which can help you sort the well-established organizations from the fly-by-night groups.  Also, published directories offer the option of browsing, which can lead to new, creative ideas.  Maybe you didn’t know that there is an American Society of Indexing or a Biomass Power Association.  Browsing can lead a researcher down some interesting paths she hadn’t considered before.

The Brooks Memorial Library offers association-related material in print form and online.  Here’s a roundup of resources:

In print, on the Library’s shelves:

  • Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance.  Ferguson Publishing, 2010.  REF 331.7 ENC.  We tend to call it “Ferguson’s” around the Library.  It’s a five-volume set of profiles of various career fields, including information on things like training, earnings potential, and typical work environments.  Each entry also includes contact information and website urls for trade and professional associations in that field.
  • Survey of American Industries and Careers.   Salem Press, 2012.  Hot off the press, and just reviewed by our own Jerry Carbone in the Booklist review journal.  It hasn’t even been cataloged yet, but you will find it soon in the Reference area near the Ferguson’s.  It updates and supplements Ferguson’s beautifully, so you’ll want to check both for information on your field, including information on associations.

Online, through the Library’s website (access from home with your card):

  • Business & Company Resource Center.  On the website, select Resources > Business.  Search for your field in the Industries section.  If you find a profile for your industry, look for the “Associations” tab on the far right of the screen.  It will bring up entries from published directories of national, international, and U.S. regional associations.
  • Small Business Resource Center On the website, select Resources > Business.  On the first screen, click on “Business Types,” choose your field of interest, and then click on the “Directories” tab.  It will link you to entries from business reference books, including roundups of trade and professional associations for small businesses of all kinds.

Online, free to all:

  • Associations on the Net, a special collection of the Internet Public Library.  Click on “Special Collections Created by IPL2,” and then choose the Associations on the Net link under “Other Collections.”  Use the subject links on the left side of the screen to zero in on associations in your field.  All of them have subdivisions to get even more specific information; for example, “Health and Medical Sciences” includes 20 or so specific health-related fields, all with their own associations.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  A free source that covers some of the same ground as Ferguson’s and the Survey of American Industry & Careers.  Includes links to trade and professional associations with a disclaimer that the links are for convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

May you find many rewarding associations!


Reference books can be heavy in every sense of the word.   The best are written by subject experts and are the culmination of years of research and painstaking editorial revision.  They are beautifully designed and have detailed indexes.  They also weigh a lot, and are not are easily transported, even if we let you borrow them, which we usually don’t.

Online reference sources are more portable, of course, and they’re becoming more so all the time.  But not every app carries the authoritative weight of a library reference book—not to mention Google and its gazillion slightly-relevant websites.  What’s a mobile scholar to do?

This is where the Library comes in, filling its traditional role of providing access to recorded knowledge.  “Access,” in this sense, is more than just a password for a restricted website: Libraries gather and organize material to make it easy for researchers to find what they need, no matter what the subject. 

With that in mind, Brooks Memorial recently acquired a core collection of e-reference books in the areas of science, history, religion, law, economics, popular culture, and more.  They can be searched all at once, which is a nice step forward in reference service, and they are accessible either through the Library’s website (Resources > Reference > Gale Virtual Reference Library) or through the Gale app, a free download for the iPhone and the Droid.  The app is nifty because the covers are displayed on virtual shelves, giving a visual idea of the diversity of this collection.

Some of the gems on this virtual shelf:

  • International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (William A. Darity, editor in chief, Macmillan, 2008)
  • Encyclopedia of Religion, winner of the Dartmouth Medal in its original edition and revised in 2005, (Lindsay Jones, editor in chief, Macmillan)
  • Grzimek’s Animal Encyclopedia, scholarly and detailed but accessible to young students, with terrific illustrations (Gale, 20003)
  • The Gale Encyclopedia of Law, which is just hitting the print and virtual shelves in January of 2011

And there are more, so download the app or bookmark the site on your web browser for easy access to these weightless, weighty reference sources.


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Brooks Memorial Library Reference Department:

Jeanne Walsh, Therese Marcy, Sharon Reidt, Jess Weitz, and sometimes Jerry