rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 3: p. 292
Sources: Encyclopedia of Geography
Edith A. Scarletto

Edith A. Scarletto, Subject Librarian for Geography & Geology, Kent State University

These volumes cover the expanse of human and physical geography and include biographical as well as topical entries cross referenced with “see also” directives and “further readings” for each listing. Each entry is arranged alphabetically by topic (or last name) and supplemented with full color illustrations liberally used throughout. A full list of entries is included at the beginning of each volume and a reader's guide is listed in volume 1 with subtopics hierarchically organized under Physical or Human Geography.

The Encyclopedia covers the vast and varied topic of geography from Remote Sensing to Aristotle and Neoliberalism to Stewart Fotheringham. The coverage is broad, and most topics are well represented in several entries as appropriate. For instance, the history of mapping and cartography techniques are discussed at length individually as well as within the GIS related articles. The articles are descriptive, including historical context, but they also identify the key questions in the study of geography, where they are relevant, and their contributions to the field. This is especially true of the entries for individuals who may be associated with other subjects such as Emmanuel Kant. These are great assets in a reference work for beginning researchers or as a reference tools for researchers. A similar title, Companion Encyclopedia of Geography (Routledge, 2007), uses a thematic direction with essays describing various problems or issues on a large scale and then delving into the directions of research. The encyclopedia is a catalog and description of terms, ideas and people making it a preferred title for reference shelves rather than the edited book/ text book format of the companion.

Some of the weaknesses of this title are exactly its expansive scope. For undergraduates used to the instant linking of topics in a web environment, they may not have the patience to track down all the related articles within their area of interest through six volumes. As a librarian, I consider the extensive “see also” references a strength, but in print form, they could be cumbersome to a user. In its electronic form, this title might appeal to students who prefer the hyperlink. I also found the “further readings” a little misleading. This was more of a reference list for the article and not a list of recommended readings for more information, and should be labeled as such. Or, it might have been supplemented with additional readings.

I recommend the Encyclopedia of Geography. It is likely most useful to academic institutions with majors or researchers in the field. For those with limited budgets, it could replace several other encyclopedias focusing on narrower fields and provide a context for topics. In six volumes and for $895 (or $1,120 for the e-book), it is among the more expensive titles for a reference work in Geography. However, it also covers many topics in fuller capacity than others of its kind. For those without related departments and faculty, other smaller titles such as The Dictionary of Physical Geography (Blackwell, 2000) and The Dictionary of Human Geography (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) could suffice.

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