2023 Dartmouth Medal Winner Announced

New Orleans — The winner of the 2023 Dartmouth Medal for most outstanding reference work, an annual award presented by the expert reference and collection development librarians of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of ALA, is The World Atlas of Trees and Forests: Exploring Earth’s Forest Ecosystems, written by Herman Shugart, Peter White, Sassan Saatchi, and Jérôme Chave, and published by Princeton University Press.

One of the first facts you learn in The World Atlas of Trees is that trees cover one-third of our planet’s surface. From there, this dynamic work examines the role of forests in our natural world and our human fascination with them. This book is a treasure trove of breathtaking imagery that beautifully illustrates the diverse nature of forest ecosystems worldwide. But it’s also a captivating natural history that invokes the extensive thought devoted to appreciating and appraising the forest landscape through the ages, invoking Ptolemey’s Geographica and GIS technology, Hardy’s poetry and Holdridge’s life zone classification system. The authors also thoughtfully address an uncertain future faced with climate change, making this work as timely as it is historical. All of these elements together have resulted in this wonderfully accessible and beautiful work that will be an asset to reference collections.    

Honorable Mentions were:

Dictionary of American Family Names, 2nd Edition (Oxford University Press) expands greatly on the first edition from 2003. The ensuing seventeen years of research has produced a revision with over 10,000 new entries and a widened scope, including typically underrepresented Native American and African American names, as well as surnames originating from around the globe. Budding and experienced genealogists alike will enjoy browsing through this work to dig into their roots.   

Hummingbirds: A Celebration of Nature’s Jewels (Princeton University Press) offers a bird’s eye view into the world of these incredible creatures. Filled with both visually stunning images and extensive scientific information, this work is a wonderful tribute to these beautiful and fascinating birds.

Fabric: Hidden History of the Material World (Pegasus Books) weaves genres together to create a tapestry of in-depth historical research and personal narrative. This fascinating work pushes the boundaries of what we may consider a traditional reference title.

Indigenous Firsts: A History of Native American Achievement and Events (Visible Ink Press) is a comprehensive and carefully researched compendium that celebrates the vast achievements of Indigenous Americans throughout history and into the present day. This highly accessible work is suitable for learners of all ages. 

The Dartmouth Medal, established in 1974, honors the creation of a reference source of outstanding quality and significance. The award is given to the best new reference source published in the previous year.

The Dartmouth committee, made up of reference subject experts from academic, public, and sometimes school and other libraries, receives nominations from librarians, editors, and publishers and spends countless hours reviewing copies throughout the latter half of the year.

The Dartmouth Medal selection committee is: Barry Trott, Library of Virginia, chair; Donald Altschiller, Boston University; Brian E. Coutts, Western Kentucky University; Dona J. Helmer, Anchorage School District (ret.); Lauren Seegmiller, Denver Public Library, and Kaite Mediatore Stover, Kansas City Public Library.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more at www.rusaupdate.org.