I was helping a patron today and they were looking for a general overview of countries around the world. I suggested to the patron travel books, foreign affairs books, the almanacs, maps, and a couple of books on the history of the places they were interested in.
None of these sources really fit the bill of what the patron was looking for. The travel information was for tourists, the information in the almanacs was distilled too much, and the history/foreign affairs books were definitely not what the patron wanted. Finally the patron said to me, "I just want an overview that goes into some detail but not too much." I then realized that I was overlooking the encyclopedias. I brought the patron over to the encyclopedias and opened one of the volumes up to one of the countries they were looking for. The patron looked at it and said,"This is exactly the information I was looking for!" The patron told me that they had not used an encyclopedia in years and completely overlooked them. This goes to show that encyclopedias aren't just for school kids' reports, they are still valuable concentrations of knowledge that can still be very useful to adults!