A reference book contains detailed information about one or many subjects to be consulted when in doubt about the correctness of what is being written or verbally stated.

A resource center is a centralized unit containing technical and other reference books and other information aids within a large firm where staff from all departments can readily obtain the variety of information they may need.

Secretaries must be aware of the sort of information which is used and usable within the organizations they work for and then learn how to find process and apply it.


  1. General resource, that is, those available from outside an office or organization. They include:
  • Encyclopedias
  • Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Chambers Encyclopedia
  • Pears Cyclopaedia

For example

  • the Pears Cyclopaedia contains miscellaneous information including a dictionary of the English language, a gazetteer, a list of prominent people, information on current events, a ready reckoner, a list of synonyms and antonyms
  • Atlas and Gazetteer – used to find location of places, spelling of place names
  • Street Directories, published by area and contains names of streets and occupiers of each house, office or shop in streets in the particular areas
  • Whitakers Almanack – contains a wide range of topics, that is, it shows information on :
  • foreign embassies
  • nobel prize winners on literature, music, poetry, drama and films, sports
  • The Post Office Guide – contains information on all Postal and telecommunication services, regulations and rates
  • Who’s Who – alphabetically lists living eminent people and give a brief biography of each
  • Black Titles and forms of Address – sets out the correct way of addressing people of rank or holding official positions both when writing and in formal speech
  • Directory of directors – contains details of all company directors and their companies.


  • ABC Rail Guide – contains information on times of train departures and arrivals, fare charges
  • Rail timetable – provide routes of trains and the stations at which they call
  • ABC Shipping Guide – gives information on all voyages by all shipping lines
  • ABC World Airways Guide –gives details of all flights by all airlines
  • AA and RAC handbooks – give information on road travel including road maps and garage facilities
  • Travel agents – provide information on all forms of travel throughout the world, as well as details of accommodation available


  • A good standard dictionary e.g. Concise Oxford Dictionary
  • The Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary
  • Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases – supplies many synonyms and antonyms
  • Fowler’s Modern English usage which contains information on points of grammar and the use of words

These English reference books help when writing summaries, reports, speeches and articles


  • Hansard – is the official report of the proceedings in Parliament in verbatim form
  • The Law List – contains names of judges, magistrates, registrars, solicitors, barristers etc
  • The Services Lists – gives details of the organization of the armed services – the army list, Air Force list and Navy list. Included is also an alphabetical list of officers

Trade Journals

It is a regular, that is, weekly or monthly publication relating to a particular trade.  It describes current developments in the trade, carries a large number of advertisements relevant to the trade, articles and reports by persons in the trade, pictures and other features of interest to readers


These are diaries of an organizations e.g.

City Council or Municipal Council Year books – provides information about local councils, such as dates of meetings, lists of members and officials, etc

Stock Exchange Year book – provides information about the companies quoted in the Stock Exchange as well as the type of securities they sell


Lists of people engaged in various professions e.g.

  1. Medical Directory – qualified Medical Practitioners
  2. Dentists Register
  • Register of Nurses

There are also specialized dictionaries apart from those of foreign languages such as;

  • Authors’ and Printers Dictionary
  • Black’s Medical Dictionary
  • Chambers’s Technical Dictionary
  • Dictionary of Legal Terms
  • Dictionaries of Commerce
  • Dictionaries of Economics
  • Dictionaries of Music

Two other reference books that can be of help in an office are:

  • A Ready Reckoner – is useful for quick calculations to anyone who has to do figure work
  • Cyclopaedia of initials and Abbreviations


Many business organizations have a technical library in which reference books of all kinds and publications that treat specifically of the industry in which the business is engaged are kept.  The technical libraries keep abreast of the latest development, in the company’s industry and related industries, make recommendations for the purchase of new publications, and obtains publications requested by members of the firm.

Relevant periodicals are available for study in the library.  A firm’s technical library is obviously a valuable source of information in connections with queries concerning the firm’s field of activity


Library assistants will often look up a reference in order to reply to a query by telephone or a visit to the library by the secretary.  This consultation is done when internal resources are limited or where it is necessary to gather information


1. The Post Office Guide – contains full information on:

  • Inland and overseas Postal, telephone and telegraph services
  • Inland and overseas postal rates
  • Methods of posting different types of matter

2. Telephone Directories – published by the post office for various areas of the country

  • Names, addresses and telephone numbers of subscribers
  • Names and addresses of those engaged in a particular trade or profession – this is found in the classified or yellow pages
  • Code numbers for different places
  • Telex directory – lists all telex subscribes alphabetically by name

3. The Post Office Directory – gives an alphabetical list of the box holders arranged under towns


There are many service businesses which are pleased to give advice and information in their own fields and when current regulations or information are required.


  1. The Commercial banks – rates of exchange, current lending rates, all financial matters
  2. Airlines and railways – up-to-the minute, reports on air and rail travel, news of specific flights and journeys
  3. Insurance brokers – advice and information on insurance matters
  4. Stock brokers – advice and information on stocks and shares and investment matters
  5. Trade associations – current trend and policies in a particular trade or industry
  6. Chambers of commerce – advice and information on local trade and business; statistics on home and overseas trade, where to get interpreters if you are involved in foreign trade
  7. Department of Trade – Local offices, Advice and information on trade, especially export, services of Export Credits Guarantee Department
  8. Department of Health and Social Security – local offices; queries regarding National Insurance dealt with.
  9. Local offices of Board of Inland Revenue – queries regarding income tax answered
  10. Department of Employment – Job Centers: Information and assistance in connection with recruitment of staff
  11. Hotel Guides – Hotels and lodge Guide books – used by tourists touring African and other countries
  12. The Kenya Gazette – government appointments, promotions, new legislation, resolutions etc
  13. Annual Abstract of Statistics – gives annual statistics covering a wide range of topics e.g. population, social services, housing, education and transport


  • Office files – for business activities or the employees in the organization
  • The organization Library or Information Center


  • Advertising agencies
  • Public relations experts
  • Accommodation agencies
  • Accounts and Auditors
  • Computer services
  • Organization and Methods services
  • Suppliers advisory services
  • Newspapers
  • Periodicals: Examples of magazines and periodicals – the Economist
  • Radio and Television
  • Newspapers provide up-to-date news and build an overview of the social, political, economic and cultural life of a country
  • Advertising agencies – advertise a new venture, product or subsidiary company
  • Public relations experts – supply expert advice on most aspects of publicity – the press, television, radio, trade, photography and advertisements
  • Accommodation agencies – provide information on hotels and finding out whether there are vacancies available
  • Foreign embassies and trade delegations – supply information about their particular country upon request in written form or by telephone
  • Travel Guides – provide information on high class hotels and tourist attractions areas


Match the information in list A with the right source of information in list B


  1. Suggest three sources that may provide information for road travel
  2. As a senior secretary in your department, you have discovered that your junior secretaries have a problem using reference books. Suggest to them five guidelines for finding information from reference books (10 marks)
  3. Outline three items of information which may be obtained from each of the following sources of information
  • An organization’s website
  • Hansard
  • Post Office Guide
  1. State where a secretary would obtain accurate information about the following:
  • A verbatim report on parliamentary proceedings
  • Departure and arrival times of a ship
  • The recent appointment of an important government official
  1. Where would you find the following information?
  • A list of advocates practicing in Kenya _________________
  • Whether your local member of Parliament spoke in Parliament and what he said __________________
  • The distance by road from Nairobi to Nakuru _______________________
  1. State three types of information which may be obtained from each of the following sources:
  • Government Gazette
  • English Dictionary
  • Atlas
  • ABC Shipping Guide
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