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When you pick up a book (reference or not!) for the first time, don't just start reading it. To maximize your use of the book, you should
- Read the title page carefully, noting not only the full title, but the author, the publisher, the publication date, and any series information.
- Peruse the table of contents to see how the book is organized and arranged.
- Read the foreward and/or introduction to the book. This tells you what the author set out to prove or disprove. Even more importantly, it can tell you what the author does NOT intend to do in the scope of the book! With reference books, the introduction often explains how to use the book as well and includes scope and coverage.
- Look to see what indexes and appendices the book has -- the indexes can often save you time by helping you locate where specific compositions (or people, or places or ...) are addressed in the text of the book.
Then and ONLY then should you start reading the book -- and now you can choose the relevant parts of the book to use!
Head, Warren D. Allen Music Library