Guide to Reference in business and economics

For Immediate Release
Tue, 08/05/2014


Rob Christopher

Marketing Coordinator

ALA Publishing

American Library Association


CHICAGO — Guide to Reference is used internationally as the “source of first resort” for identifying information and training reference professionals. Focusing on key print and electronic sources, “Guide to Reference in Business and Economics,” edited by Steven W. Sowards and Elisabeth Leonard, is a must-have for every reference desk. In this guide, available through the ALA Store, readers will find sources of information on such topics as:

  • business law;
  • e-commerce;
  • international business;
  • management of information systems;
  • occupations and careers;
  • market research.

Sowards, associate director for collections at the Michigan State University Libraries and the guide's division editor for the Social Sciences since 2005, reviewed and updated entries for this print format edition.

Leonard, formerly associate dean of library services at Western Carolina University, served as the primary contributor for the Economics and Business section of the online Guide from 2006 to 2012. This 2014 edition builds on her extensive work in selection, organization, explanation and writing, which supported the 2008 launch of the online Guide.

Guide to Reference is a selective guide to the best reference sources, both print and Web-based, organized by academic discipline and available as a subscription database. An editorial team of reference librarians and subject experts select, annotate, and update some 16,000 entries. ALA Store purchases fund advocacy, awareness and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide. Contact us at (800) 545-2433 ext. 5052 or


terese mulkern terry ALA Guide to Economics & Business Reference. Ed. Robert Kieft and Denise Bennett. Chicago: American Library Association. 2011. 505p. $65.00 (Paperback) (ISBN 978-0-8389-1024-5), (LC 2011009721) HB61.A423 2011 and 016.33-dc22 “The possession of the right books and the knowledge of how to use them is essential to the success of a reference department.” (Isadore Gilbert Mudge. 1929.) Ms. Mudge, a librarian and teacher at Columbia University, steered the landmark American Library Association Guide to Reference Books through four major revisions between 1917 and 1936. Substantial essays as timeless as the quote above are woven throughout. The 5th Mudge edition was the reigning reference manual and Library Science textbook in 1929. Subsequent editions were organized along the same format until the ALA Guide to Reference Online appeared in 2008. Business bibliographies, pathfinders and research guides abound today. But when the venerable American Library Association rings in, it’s a major event. ALA Guide to Economics & Business Reference has eight sections: Basic Industry Information, Company Information, Economic Conditions & World Trade, Functional Areas of Business, General Works, Occupations & Careers, Regional Economic Sources, and Specialized Industry Information (the biggest section). While its older print cousins exhibit a Masterpiece Theatre demeanor, this newcomer adopts a no-frills, Dragnet style. (Just the facts, m’am.) No basics, essays, overviews, backgrounds, advice or prices -- and quite often, no date or indication of fee or free status. We know that vendors generally negotiate fees based on number of users and content selected, but a range of costs is always available. In today’s environment of budget constraints, cost would be a helpful addition to the annotations. And unfortunately, in too many cases the online version of a publication is completely ignored. Like the Statistical Abstract of the U.S. (now fee-based), each entry has a unique number. The table of contents shows page numbers. The index directs one to entry numbers. In contrast to Sheehy’s 1986 ALA Guide to Reference index of 423 pages, this one comprises a modest 16 pages. What accounts for the difference? Previous print ALA guides list subject, sponsoring bodies, author and title in a combined alphabetic index; the new print ALA guide’s perfunctory index is confined to titles. The contributors (always a top evaluation criteria) to ALA Guide to Economics & Business Reference are not disclosed. For this, the editor refers readers to the 2008 ALA Guide to Reference Online, a subscription service. Knock knock – nobody there -- except the contributors to the latter resource. Does this explain why I perceive a pervasive robotic tone throughout? We’re familiar with stock trading and market research report bots. Was a software program used to facilitate the tedious task of compiling a bibliography? The many duplicate entries (21 for Hoover’s online) compound this impression. Another robotic element resides in some of the links provided. When I first unwrapped the book, it flopped open to an unruly URL for the Statistical Yearbook for Latin America & the Caribbean. Of course, it generated an error message. Almost any human and certainly any librarian looking at it would know the outcome without even trying it. ALA Guide to Economics & Business Reference is loaded with futile links like this. Some are incomprehensible. For example, the six duplicate entries for Forrester Research find a phantom Harvard Business School library page. I’m guessing the cutoff year for listings was 2008 (the date in the misbegotten Latin America yearbook url). Scores of mergers, publication cessations and slow fades in the business information industry have occurred since then, rendering much of the content here useless. With the 2008 date in mind, we can’t fault the editors for not being aware of demises that occurred in the last three years, such as StatUSA, Business Information Alert and Financial Studies of the Small Business. They also couldn’t have known about SourceOECD’s restructuring as OECD iLibrary. However, they should have resisted including the 27 year old Black Business and Economics: a Bibliography or the “completely updated” 2005 Frumkin “Guide to Economic Indicators.” And seeing the RMA Risk Management Associates listed as Robert Morris Associates (the name was changed 11 years ago) is not confidence inspiring. Looking at some other resources, how could the contributors be unaware that American Demographics was absorbed into Advertising Age back in 2004 and that PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ EdgarScan, the Security & Exchange Commission search engine, became an exclusively internal tool in 2007? And who in their right mind would consult Internet Resources for International Marketing & Advertising published in 2002? Why list the 2002 Oxford Dictionary of Business when the constantly updated Financial Times Lexicon is freely available? Incidentally, the Financial Times gets not a single entry. And where’s Bloomberg? Or Dialog? Or Fortune? Doesn’t the Nonprofit sector merit more than one reference? Okay, I’ll stop shouting. In addition to up-to-dateness, we look for authority in the content we recommend to users. Duplicate entries for IBISWorld US, a Los Angeles market research firm product, appear in 21 different sections. IBIS reports are near totally devoid of documentation. Both times that I questioned the rep about this I was told that if IBIS revealed their “cookbook,” users would go to the primary sources and not buy their product. “O sure,” I said, “just like no one buys the meticulously sourced Standard & Poor’s Industry Surveys (not listed in this book) or Euromonitor Global Market Information Database.” Is ALA Guide to Economics and Business the designated hitter to replace such highly regarded works as Michael Lavin’s 1992 Business Information (How to Find it, How to Use it), Halperin and Pagell’s 1999 International Business Information (How to Find it, How to Use it) or Moss and Wheeler’s Strauss’s 2004 Handbook of Business Information? These older titles remain a staple at many reference desks because of their useful guidelines for resource evaluation and collection management. However, business and finance librarians operate in the most current-intensive and volatile branch of reference work. Michael Halperin, director of the Lippincott Library of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and co-editor of International Business, told me that he has placed his library’s copy in remote storage. So we must ask – why produce a print business and economics reference guide sure to be doomed to obsolescence before it reaches its audience? What’s the alternative? University librarians regularly churn out excellent guides on these subjects. The Rosenfield library at the UCLA Anderson School of Management provides a feast of top quality print and electronic publications in “Business Topics.” Business libraries aren’t alone in supplying excellent bibliographies. For example, the University of Central Florida Libraries has rescued the links to all the sources formerly in the defunct StatUSA. Does the ALA Guide to Economics & Business Reference deserve a place on our shelves? Not mine. References. ALA Guide to Reference Online. 2008 . (“updated on an ongoing basis.”) Free trials are available. Business Topics. UCLA Anderson School Library.\ The Financial Times Lexicon. http://lexicon, “Globus & NTDB Resource Lists.” U of Central Florida Libraries. Guide to Reference. ALA. 5th ed. 1929. Full text. (Haithi trust digital library) International Business Information (How to Find it, How to Use it) 1999 2nd ed. (Excerpts)