These reference books (2nd floor) provide broad descriptions on a variety of topics. Keep in mind, reference materials can only be used inside the library.
Knowing the context and background of any subject is essential to researching and writing about it. Such knowledge can take you in unexpected directions and reveal relationships and connections previously unknown.
Specialized encyclopedias--that go well beyond the scope of general encyclopedias--will help you gain background knowledge, learning key people, dates, speeches, etc. from which you can begin to conduct effective search strategies.
Specialized dictionaries--that go well beyond the scope of general dictionaries--can help you understand the context and connotations of language used by people of a particular time period. Knowing their terminology can help you identify appropriate search terms.
Chronologies can help you understand the historical context of a person's life, a speech, a law, etc. Chronologies lay out timelines and can provide related search terms for your research.
Biographies, like encyclopedias, provide excellent background information for researchers.
Atlases provide geographic and visual context to history.