Reference Shelf

Each year, over 250 carefully selected articles and documents provide balanced coverage, supported by comprehensive background information, on the topics of vital interest to students and researchers in our fast-changing world.

Each 200-page volume provides comprehensive, balanced coverage of an issue of importance in modern society. Each volume contains 35-45 notable documents and articles (complete or abstracted) from highly respected periodicals and media outlets. In addition, the Preface introduces the reader to the topic and 5-6 chapters within the text provide readers with thoughtful guidance on how to approach a particular aspect of the topic. Each chapter’s introductory material provides guidance and guarantees success in using these carefully-selected materials. A bibliography, index and important websites enhance further research.

Reference Shelf titles are available singly (for $75 each), however, most libraries subscribe to the entire annual set of six titles (for terms of one, two or three years) and enjoy substantial savings as a result.

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Reference Shelf 2021

Reference Shelf 2021

Policing in 2020

Law enforcement is one of the most difficult, challenging, and controversial roles in American society. This volume of The Reference Shelf looks at the challenges facing police, from funding and staffing shortages to the influence of political polarization. The changing public perception of police and calls for reform will also be examined. The controversial “Defund the Police” and “Black Lives Matter” protests against police brutality will be covered, while other articles will explore policing and immigration enforcement, mental health and de-escalation training, and law enforcement during civil rights protests. Also explored will be the ways in which the onset of COVID-19 has changed policing and how these changes might impact the future of policing after the pandemic.

Food Insecurity & Hunger in the United States

This volume of The Reference Shelf looks at America’s food economy and food inequality. Though America is the world’s wealthiest nation and has some of the most productive agricultural land in the world, it still has a serious problem with food availability and hunger. Research indicates that around 11 percent of American households struggle to obtain enough food, or quality foods, each year and 5.6 million households suffer from low access to enough food, or high-quality foods. This volume looks at why this problem persists in America as well as investigates the underlying causes, racial and ethnic disparities, and potential solutions to this long-standing and increasingly severe American crisis.

National Debate Topic, 2021-2022: Water Reources

All life on Earth depends on water and, for humanity, water is the key to all civilization. In the modern world, humans consume vast quantities of water and waste even more, and this repeated pattern of overuse is leading to a serious and potentially existential water crisis. In this volume of The Reference Shelf, selected publications from a variety of sources discuss issues related to water conservation and preservation. In addition to looking at how states and the federal government can use laws and policies to preserve water, it examines how citizens can participate in this effort, locally and at the global level. Also discussed will be the role of research and scientific development in both water conservation and water reclamation. Finally, the environmental factors affecting water resources will be discussed, including droughts, floods, and the ongoing impact of climate change.

College Sports

Where should America draw the line between professional and student athletes? This volume examines a variety of scandals and controversies in the college sports world, including admission scandals and the methods that recruiters and school administrators use to find, sign, and groom players. While some celebrate college sports and its role in producing players who go on to play at the professional level, others argue that college athletics denigrates the role that universities and colleges are supposed to play and that too often student athletes are exploited. This volume also looks at whether or not college athletes deserve some portion of the more than $1 billion industry that they create.


While most Americans participate in vaccination, for a small number of Americans, vaccination is perceived as a threat and possibly even a conspiracy. This volume looks at the history of vaccination as well as the regulation and administrative processes surrounding the creation and dissemination of vaccines. The cost and availability of vaccines in American communities is examined, as well as laws regarding childhood vaccination and access to schooling and other public facilities. Illnesses and other medical controversies related to the industry, and the emergence of the science skepticism/anti-vaccine movement that continues to influence American popular thought, is examined.

Representative American Speeches, 2020-2021

The most memorable speeches from a variety of speakers are discussed in this issue, allowing an opportunity to analyze the year’s most pressing and controversial topics. Speakers from many walks of life are featured, including education, politics, science and research, and popular culture.

Reference Shelf 2020

Hate Crimes

This volume focuses on the recent increase in hate crime in the United States, touching on recent mass shootings, the role of the president and the government in preventing hate crime, and recent outreach programs to schools and educators by the FBI and other organizations in the wake of rising hate crime incidents in our schools. It also discusses hate crime law, hate crime vs. hate speech, and the increase in hate-based international violence, which raises the issue of human-rights violations.

Propaganda and Misinformation

This edition of Reference Shelf looks at propaganda and misinformation. Social media posts inciting sectarian violence, government-manipulated misinformation campaigns, for-profit fake news headlines, and well-meaning but gullible individuals promoting conspiracies point up the problems with our current media environment. Looking at such issues as Russian election interference, the increasing polarization of media consumption, hacktivism, and the future role AI could play in making fake news more difficult to detect, this volume explores the pollution of our information environment and what we can do about it.

National Debate Topic, 2020-2021:
Criminal Justice Reform

This year’s debate topic will focus on the issue of criminal justice reform. Central points include sentencing issues—mandatory minimums, truth in sentencing laws, and racial disparities; policing reform, including the role of police vs. social workers and health care workers as well as police brutality; reducing overcriminalization, particularly of drug possession; the War on Drugs as a cause of mass incarceration; a focus on rehabilitation vs. punishment in prisons; and juvenile justice reform. Significant recent developments include the 2019 First Step Act, which allows thousands of federal inmates to earn early release from prison, makes the reforms enacted by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive, and eases mandatory minimum requirements. Opponents of reform argue that measures such as these could result in violent criminals being released and recidivism.

Internet Law

This issue of Reference Shelf explores evolving cyberlaw pertaining to such issues as data privacy, freedom of expression, intellectual property, e-commerce, and contract law. Free and open source software licensing raises questions regarding developer’s liability and trade secrets. Recent advances in surveillance and tapping and in computerized voting technology have also raised many legal issues. The jurisdiction of cyberlaw—should the Internet be treated as a physical space?—is yet another layer. Issues of net neutrality are also considered.


Islands of plastic waste, chemicals from everyday products and prescription drugs, and farm animal waste are all contributing to the destruction of our environment and climate change. Such issues, and the difficulty of solving them, are the subject of this Reference Shelf. Radical plans to artificially cool Earth’s climate and to use ocean currents to correct plastic sea pollution are discussed, as well as the difficulty of enforcing environmental protection laws. The impact of China’s recent decision to stop buying U.S. recyling is also explored, as are controversial particulate air tests run on humans.

Representative American Speeches, 2019-2020

The most memorable speeches from a variety of speakers are discussed in this issue, allowing an opportunity to analyze the year’s most pressing and controversial topics. Speakers from many walks of life are featured, including education, politics, science and research, and popular culture.

Reference Shelf 2019

The Two Koreas

This volume of The Reference Shelf looks at America's relationship with North and South Korea, from the long U.S.-South Korean military alliance to America's developing relationship with North Korea and the tense 2018 effort to stem North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Affordable Housing

A collection of primary and secondary sources provides an example of American thought and media coverage on issues such as mortgage rates and the availability of real estate, homelessness, the development and management of government-sponsored housing programs in the present and past, and the impact of home ownership on prosperity and the perception of the American Dream.

National Debate Topic, 2019-2020:
Arms Sales

This volume of The Reference Shelf focuses on the National Forensics League’s (NFL) 2019-2020 National Debate Topic, Arms Sales.

Democracy Evolving

This volume takes a closer look at America's evolving ideas about the nature and value of the democratic system.

New Frontiers in Space

This edition of The Reference Shelf examines the evolving issues of space science and technology, providing periodical articles that provide perspective of America's past, present, and future in the realm of space exploration.

Representative American Speeches 2018/2019

Selected from a diverse field of speakers and venues, this volume offeres some of the most engaging American speeches of the year.

Reference Shelf 2018

The South China Sea Conflict

This volume explores the growing tensions in US-China relations over the heavily militarized and disputed area claimed by many different governments. Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines claim parts of the South China Sea, with US backing. Beijing asserts ownership of most of the area through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes annually.

Alternative Facts, Post-Truths & The Information War

This thought-provoking volume unpacks the fragmented state of news feeds and journalism, and the loss of shared news narratives in the U.S., while also exploring the effects of media manipulation and disinformation online.

U.S. National Debate Topic, 2018-2019: Immigration

The focus of this volume is Immigration, the subject of the National Forensics League’s (NFL) 2018-2019 Policy Debate. The volume examines current trends in immigration policy and collects a variety of thought pieces on the issue of immigration. Among the topics explored are: the future of DACA and Dreamers, the merits of the proposed border wall along the southern US, the travel ban and its legitimacy and the refugee crisis. Also discussed will be the H-1 b visa under the Trump administration, the foreign-born technology class and the idea of the the American melting pot.

Artificial Intelligence

This volume highlights the current ethical debate in Artificial Intelligence to explore and answer the question, “What are developing policies around the ethics and governance of Artificial Intelligence?”

The American Dream

Is it still alive and for whom? This volume examines economic mobility in the US, the relationship between jobs and college education, the cost of college, the decline of manufacturing, the chances of earning as much as your parents, economic inequality and millennial downward mobility.

Representative American Speeches 2017-2018

Each year, Reference Shelf selects from a diverse field of speakers and venues to provide the most engaging American speeches of the year in this definitive issue.

Reference Shelf 2017

Guns in America

From domestic terrorism, to the Black Lives Matter movement articles in this title reflects differences in policy views on the subject in the longstanding debate around gun rights and gun control.

Internet Abuses & Privacy Rights

From the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden’s security leak of classified information, to hacked email accounts of prominent political candidates, internet privacy and cyber security present major ethical issues in today’s technology-centric society.

The U.S. National Debate Topic, 2017-2018: Education Reform

Education Reform is the focus of the National Forensics League’s 2017-2018 Policy Debate. Articles discuss different strategies in reforming primary and secondary education in the U.S.

LGBTQ in the 21st Century

Issues explored in this title include the role of non-traditional same-sex families, and expanded protections for transgender people under the framework of civil rights.

Prescription Drug Abuse

This collection explores different views on the causes of and potential solutions to the long-term risks of prescription drug abuse.

Representative American Speeches 2016-2017

Selected from a diverse field of speakers and venues, this volume offers some of the most engaging American speeches of the year.

Reference Shelf 2016

Subscribers to The Reference Shelf 2016 receive free online access to American Political Speeches. Download the marc record here

Racial Tension in a “Postracial” Age

While race may be a “social construct,” it still has very real effects on national and global politics and society. This volume explores the state of race in the United States today.


This volume explores the various aspects of the conversation, including such hot-button talking points as so-called “anchor babies,” as well as recent policy discussions related to the DREAM Act, counter-terrorism, the policing of borders, and education.

The U.S. National Debate Topic: U.S./China Relations

U.S./China Relations examines the National Forensic League's 2016/17 Policy Debate resolution: “The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic and/or diplomatic engagement with the People’s Republic of China.”

Rethinking Work

This volume explores current topics—from employees working from home and new discussions around “work-life balance” to reports on how the US economy has fared in the years following the ‘'great recession.”

Campaign Trends and Election Law

Important issues under discussion include the rise of one-party domination of state government and the subsequent, unprecedented gerrymandering of districts; the use of initiatives and referendums to mobilize political bases; and the changing uses of social media in campaigns.

Representative American Speeches 2015-2016

Selected from a diverse field of speakers and venues, this volume offers some of the most engaging American speeches of the year.

Reference Shelf 2015

Subscribers to The Reference Shelf 2015 receive free online access to American Political Speeches. Download the marc record here

The Supreme Court

This title probes the extraordinary power of nine justices to shape not only the public sphere but the most intimate realms of American life.


The volume explores the most vital issues of political ethics through a personal lens.


The focus of this title is the subject of the National Forensics League's 2015/16 Policy Debate, which answers the question: "Should the United States substantially curtail its domestic surveillance?"

The Digital Age

The Digital Age challenges us to understand not only the great potential good offered by modern digital technology but its negative consequences.

Transformation of American Cities

This volume explores critical problems and bold new solutions at what appears to be a rare moment of opportunity for the nation’s cities.

Representative American Speeches 2014-2015

Selected from a diverse field of speakers and venues, this volume offers some of the most engaging American speeches of the year.

Reference Shelf 2014

Aging in America

This volume examines the great challenges America will face in caring for aging baby boomers.

Revisiting Gender

The volume examines the changing role of women and men in shaping American life in education, work, and public and private life.

The U.S. National Debate Topic: The Ocean

The Ocean examines the policies, controversies, and challenges surrounding the Earth’s oceans and the marine resources contained therein.

Embracing New Paradigms in Education

This volume collects stories on rapidly changing fields and issues in education.

Marijuana Reform

This volume of articles examines the recent push for marijuana policy reform in America, which has reached a turning point in 2013.

Representative American Speeches 2013-2014

Selected from a diverse field of speakers and venues, this volume offers some of the most engaging American speeches of the year.

Reference Shelf 2013

Reality Television

This volume will cover the evolution of reality programming, reviewing early programming in the 1970s and the ascendency of the genre in the 1980s and onwards.

The Business of Food

The Business of Food covers the complexity of the production and consumption of food, in a variety of social and cultural contexts.

The Future of U.S. Economic Relations: Mexico, Cuba, and Venezuela

Following the topic set by the National Forensic League, the volume reveals the diversity of United States economic relations in Latin America.

Sports in America

This volume reminds readers that sports influence nearly every sphere of American life.

Global Climate Change

This volume updates readers on major studies on global warming with updates on the major developments in a subject that continues to change each year.

Representative American Speeches 2012-2013

Selected from a diverse field of speakers and venues, this volume offers some of the most engaging American speeches of the year.

Reference Shelf 2012

Conspiracy Theories

This volume examines a number of well-known conspiracy theories, their sources, effects and credibility.

Arab Spring

This volume discusses the history of these revolutions, America's role in them, their causes, impact on the world at large and their implications for the future.

Transportation Infrastructure

The US transportation system is a complex national concern, closely tied to our nation’s economy, defense, and national security.

Families: Traditional & New Structures

This collection surveys the influence of major events and social trends on the configuration of the contemporary American family.

Faith & Science

A series of articles examine the debates where religion and science diverge.

Representative American Speeches 2011-2012

This collection, a continuing series on representative speeches, draws upon themes that have dominated public discussion the previous year.

Reference Shelf 2011

Social Networking

This collection of articles traces the evolution of social networking, considering both its usefulness and potential dangers.


From their origins and evolution to their much-debated extinction, this volume features the latest scholarship on dinosaurs.

Space Exploration & Development

This year the topic for the National Forensic League's 2011-2012 National Policy Debate is American Space Exploration and Development.

U.S. Infrastructure

This anthology explores the state of American infrastructure, from roads, bridges, and mass transit systems to water, electricity, and communication grids.

Politics of the Ocean

The selections contained in this volume chart the most significant issues that are impacting the oceans in the 21st century.

Representative American Speeches 2010-2011

Selected from a diverse field of speakers and venues, this volume offers some of the most engaging American speeches of the year.

Reference Shelf 2010


Examines the history, technology, manufacture and application of physical robots.

The News & its Future

The News and its Future considers how the Internet and other technological advancements will continue to impact news gatherings and change the way the public keeps itself informed.

American Military Presence Overseas

The U.S. National Debate subject for 2010, this volume examines if and to what extent America should reduce its military presence around the globe, with a special focus on Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, Japan and South Korea


The nation of Russia - its history, culture, economy, domestic politics, and foreign relations - is the focus of this title

Graphic Novels & Comic Books

This book explores the origins, development, and future of these vibrant and increasingly respected modes of expression.

Representative American Speeches 2009-2010

This volume is a compilation of the year’s most notable speeches from politics, business, and academia gives a concise snapshot of the year’s most significant issues.

Reference Shelf 2009

The Brain

This Reference Shelf title examines what modern science has taught us about the brain and considers what remains to be discovered.

Internet Safety

This volume of the Reference Shelf series covers issues relating to Internet safety, including viruses, spam e-mails, Internet hoaxes, cyberbully, identity theft, and international cyberterrorism

Immigration in U.S.

Discusses trends in immigration in the United States, including the demographic makeup of today’s newcomers, the status of undocumented workers, their impact on the economy and culture, and the trepidation felt by many native-born citizens toward these new residents

The Paranormal

Surveys various supernatural phenomena, from ghosts and extra sensory perception (ESP), to UFOs and cryptozoology, examining whether they have any scientific validity and why people find them so fascinating

Representative American Speeches 2008-2009

This compilation of the year’s most notable speeches from politics, business, and academia gives a concise snapshot of the year’s most significant issues.

Reference Shelf 2008

Celebrity Culture in the U.S.

Charts the emergence of American celebrity culture, the kinds of people who achieve celebrity status, the continually evolving term “celebrity,” and what the country’s obsession with celebrity says about society and culture.

Water Supply

Offers an overview of the best methods for providing fresh, potable water to the world community, with an emphasis on the challenges posed by geography, a continually expanding population, changing weather patterns, and widespread drought, among others.

Alternative Energy

Focuses on the topic of the National High School Policy Debate (an annual tournament involving students nationwide), which questions whether the U.S. federal government should dramatically increase alternative energy incentives

The American Presidency

The Executive office is explored, from its initial conception by the founding fathers through to its modern-day incarnation, as well as the role of the vice president and the potential for a female or minority candidate assuming the office.

The Next Space Age

Examines humanity’s ongoing efforts to explore the universe, focusing on the various national, multinational, and private endeavors that are currently underway while also charting some of the more significant triumphs and tragedies of the Space Age.

Representative American Speeches 2007-2008

This compilation of the year’s most notable speeches from politics, business, and academia gives a concise snapshot of the year’s most significant issues.