The least used reference book in my library is probably the almanac (and atlas). The almanac would be popular if it was connected with other world fact books, such as Guinness. My students eat up fact books and as soon as they were taught and started applying their knowledge of an atlas, many of them wanted to check one out (even if one of the main targets was understanding that reference books stay in the library).
Encyclopedias have been popular and well-used over the past few weeks due to the 5th graders working on their pollution research and the 4th graders working on their landmarks Twitter challenge. Still, it's been a rough ride. Even though students have had reference book lessons and hands on applications, they didn't really get how to use them till their newest tasks.
It's been worth the wait because they understand that some encyclopedias come in sets and individual books are arranged by alaphabetical subjects (our library is blessed to have several sets of encyclopedias). I asked my 4th graders to look up the location of their landmarks in an encyclopedia, so that I could then help them locate country related books. These books led to more information about their specific landmark. They did get excited once they saw that another book had more information (some of them have landmarks that are a little hard to come by information, like Ankgor Wat).
My 5th graders have not only been using the regular encyclopedias, but the science encyclopedias, too. Those were a great help to them when they first had to define their type of pollution...dictionaries can't always be specific.
Some of my students will ask me to use a dictionary for assignments outside of library or will automatically grab it themselves...for me, that's a mission accomplished. I also created a reference book anchor chart from Pinterest, which I will catch my students glancing at when they first begin an assignment.
My next step, is to encourage use of the thesaurus. I will also be asking my 4th graders to look in an atlas to locate the country and maybe even city or state of their landmark. Always good to that have geographical understanding.
What it all comes down to is that reference section in my library is being used! Hallelujah!