In Uncategorized



A collection in list form, printed in a book or pamphlet, or in the form of a searchable, electronic database, of people, institutions, organizations, rules and ordinances, that provide advisory but not compulsory guidance toward locating, as needed, those items listed (Webster’s Dictionaries).


Or more precisely: “a series of names or other items written or printed together in a meaningful grouping or sequence so as to constitute a {searchable} record” (Hobart & Schiffman, p.46).




Directory entries may include, but are not limited to, names, addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, photographs and other pertinent information related to the listed item, such as brief descriptions of a person’s profession, or an organization’s operation, purpose or goal. They are typically sorted alphabetically by the last names of individuals or even their titles, or by the names of companies, organizations and institutions.


Directory lists are often grouped by state, city, district, institution, organization or some other common characteristic that narrows the directory’s scope and eases search ability. For instance, if one is planning an excursion to Florida one need not consult a national directory of hotels if a more compact version for Florida alone is available. Local directories are more likely to be updated with greater frequency. In addition, a national directory, in order to conserve space, may not have as comprehensive a list as the local directory (which is also more likely to be better informed of lesser known “hideaway” and “off-the-beaten-path” locations.)




Common, traditional examples of directories are phone books, city travel guides, handbooks of organizations (which often include membership directories) and wall boards (inside building lobbies) listing room and floor numbers of occupants.


There exists today a wide array of specialized directories that cater to specific groups, people and interests. The following examples from Sweetland illustrate the extensiveness of subjects covered by directories:


• Architectural

• Art

• Awards

• Broadcast Media

• Business

• Disabled People

• Education

• Events

• Government

• Grants, Fellowships and Scholarships

• Historical Agencies

• Genealogy

• Libraries and Archives

• Medicine

• Military

• Publishing

• Religion



One specialized directory called Free Money may elicit a laugh from its title, but that does not diminish the important value of its list of 15,000 government programs that provide assistance to those searching for ways to start a business, change careers, get an education, buy property or promote an invention, among other things.




City directories are among the earliest printed, and preserved additions from the early nineteenth century are useful as sources of historical information. These were primarily sorted according to addresses, rather than by business names or people (Sweetland, p. 173). When telephone service arrived in the late nineteenth century entries began to be sorted by name. The first telephone directory to be printed in the United States was published in New Haven, Connecticut in 1878. The Polk Company, founded in 1870, is a well known publisher of city directories, with about 1,300 in print today (Sweetland, p. 173). They were one of the first to enable cross-referencing by telephone number.




The speed, ease, variety and growing accessibility of electronic directories may indicate a trend away from paper-based lists. Many believe they will be obsolete very soon. Whether on CD-Rom, the internet or corporate and institutional databases, electronic lists provide the ability to search by any word, phrase, number, partial phrase, partial name, partial address, etc. However, accuracy tends to be a problem, since, due to the size of such directories (and especially if they are free), they are less apt to be updated consistently (Sweetland, p. 209).



Eric Schneider





Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language(1989). New York/New Jersey: Gramercy Books.


Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary(1980). G. & C. Merriam Co.


Hobart, Michael E. and Schiffman, Zachary S. (1998). Information Ages: Literacy, Numeracy, and the Computer Revolution. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.


Sweetland, J. H. (2001). Fundamental Reference Sources (3rd ed.)American Library Association.