Anyone who is involved in collection development will be pleasantly surprised with the appearance of Reference Reviews Europe Annual (RREA), a journal of English language reviews for selectors. Based on abstracts of reviews formerly published in the German-language quarterly, Informationsmittel für Bibliotheken, this comprehensive book review annual, a collaboration of many, is a welcome "source of bibliographic information and evaluative commentary for selectors...providing expert guidance relating to scope, quality, and suitability of purchase." (v.2, p. 7) This reviewer found RREA a pleasure to use.
After a brief introduction, RREA follows the organizational structures of the parent publication, Informationsmittel für Bibliotheken, with sections arranged according to a subject classification scheme based for the most part on Guide to Reference Books. Each annual volume contains a key to the reviewers for the Informationsmittel für Bibliotheken and a key for the abstractors for RREA. In addition, volume 3 (1997) contains a detailed subject index.
RREA's value lies in the readability of its translations and the brevity and exactness of its abstracts. Citations are complete and include ISBN, price and availability. Its real strength, however, lies in its reviewers and abstractors who convey a richness and depth of expertise in reference and collection/development strategies which suggest that this work could evolve into a major English-language selection source for European imprints. I found even the shortest of abstracts informative. Phrases such as "the paper quality improved," "the number of titles cited continually grew," and "limited use as a bibliography" indicate well researched investigation. Many of the abstracts are themselves mini-histories of the materials they review. It is not uncommon for reviewers to cite other works related directly or indirectly to the piece in hand or to offer suggestions for improvement or clarification.
"Always on the lookout for ways to improve our publication...we have added a new dimension of access" (v.3, p.8) by incorporating in volume 3 (1997) lengthy review articles matching the high quality of those which appear in the Informationsmittel für Bibliotheken. Of particular note are the articles of Jeffrey Larson, reviewing Dictionnaire européen des Lumières; Barbara Allen, reviewing Dictionnaire étymologique et historique de la langue française; and a unique double contrasting review of Christian Ritzi and Klaus Graf of the Jahresberichte für deutsche Geschichte: Datenbank. This reviewer found these reviews informative and rather refreshing often breaking the tediousness of one abstract after another. Original reviews should continue.
RREA, through its many collaborators and editors, offers an abstracting service which I see as still in a state of evolving, still seeking its own identity. Will it continue to follow the Informationsmittel für Bibliotheken as its guide and citation source or will it go its own way into lengthy reviews in other disciplines such as classics, anthropology or the sciences? Will it expand reviewing other European language reference sources such as Spanish, Portuguese, etc. or will it continue following the parent publication and its choices? These are choices the editorial staff must answer amongst themselves and decide where to take RREA. For my part, I endorse the move to include original reviews and encourage the editors to development RREA's own identity, distinct, in part, from the parent publication. Original reviews from many other disciplines should be encouraged thereby fostering what the title RREA suggests, Reference REVIEWS Europe Annual. I wish RREA much success and envision it as a dominate reference selection tool for years to come.
RREA is a printed version of Reference Reviews Europe Online (RREO), a product of Casalini Libri who also publishes this paper version. The abstracts first appear online on RREO at http://www.rre.casalini.com. The printed version (RREA) is approximately one year behind the online edition. Scholars and selectors from large research and academic institutions where the majority of these reference tools would be acquired should find both formats valuable.
Reference Reviews Europe Annual. Fiesole : Casalini libri, 1995- ISSN 1124-6332.