Business Library & Business Reference Web Pages


RUSA BRASS Discussion Group
ALA Annual Conference - Washington, D.C.
Sunday, June 24, 2007 10:30 - 12:00
Capitol Hilton, South American Room
56 Attendees

Program:  Business Reference

BRASS Discussion Group Notes

The session started with an ice breaker.  How did you get involved in business librarianship?  Various people from each table shared how they got involved in business librarianship.

1.  Wharton FAQs. 

A question was asked about the PENN FAQs project.  This is a collaborative project that Wharton is hosting providing brief answers to business FAQs.  23 schools are currently involved.  Each school adapts the answers to questions to reflect their resources.  They look at basic questions and build upon them. It was stated that the hard part is keeping up with updates, rather than setting it up.  Some schools are using the FAQ for questions other than business, such as Purdue.  Statistics provided on usage are very good, give an idea of what people are asking for, and also provide information on the questions that get zero hits (i.e. the gaps in the FAQ database). The FAQs are customizable for each school and a good driver to resource guides. Bobray pointed out that this was initially started as a way to pool resources from schools that are renown for various specialties within their business programs.  Currently only schools who are ABLD (Academic Business Library Directors) members are participating. Only a minority participating are not at a research institution, and although it is for academic libraries, it is free so public and corporate libraries can see what others are doing. However, non-participating libraries are not able to see the administrative side of the software and are not able to add their own questions to the database. Some libraries are starting their own versions of the database. It is intended to provide fast answers to commonly asked questions and not in-depth research assistance. A link to Ask a Librarian or IM is often included for further assistance. RUSQ has a recent article on the program. 

RUSQ article link:

PENN FAQ link:


2.  Does anyone have experience with, SimplyMap, other GIS or spatial analysis programs? 

SimplyMap from Geographic Research Inc. (GRI) is a web-based geographic mapping application with demographic, business and marketing data. They expect to have trials for MRI consumer data in August and may add congressional and school district information in the future.  They partner with EASI Analytic, AGS and MRI and have incorporated GL coding and ring studies.  It is aimed at the library market (public and academic), small business, government agencies and NGOs.  Users can select and compare data across many locations and build custom reports that can be run in excel. Users can log in and get their own personal workspace.  Much of this data is on the web such as government data but it is in many places; SimplyMap consolidates it and provides future estimates. Plus, the reps are very amicable to suggestions for improvement and changes. They are starting to work with library consortiums. The Standard package is around 10k for 5 simultaneous users; other packages cost extra such as MRI and Historical data.  The main advantage to the package is that it is easy to use with a brief tutorial, easier than GIS.

SimplyMap:  or

Social Explorer through SUNY is less costly ($1200 est) but has less capabilities.  It's very basic but has population censuses back to 1850.  Not much here on the economic census. Can go to the block level. There may be data missing. Can do quite a bit with this for free.

Social Explorer:

Business Decision by Civic Technologies (BSRI) is another option.  Public libraries in North Carolina like this. It's good for those starting a business.  Information includes census data, consumer expenditure data. Public libraries have been getting good deals on this. 

Civic Technologies:

3. S&P NetAdvantage vs. IBIS World 

It was pointed out that these are very different products, although both provide some industry information.  S&P has stock and bond information and covers 52-53 major industries; the big players.  It was pointed out that S&P Industry Surveys are available online through their NetAdvantage product--and many expressed concern that S&P was going to cease the print version of the industry surveys and then they would only be available through NetAdvantage (which is out of price range for many public libraries and some academic libraries). However, S&P is re-defining their product and the survey section is being sold separately. Light Compustat with 6 years of data is incorporated into an S&P package; the statistical service may be two years away. IBIS World provides reports on 750 industries, down to the 5 level NAICS.  IBIS World reports are 17-35 pages and provide a good overview. Risk data is not licensed to academic institutions. It was suggested that Mintel has more detailed reports which often contain SWOT analysis. Mintel includes psychographic and lifestyle data and is excellent at consumer products.  S&P is superior in cited sources but who are the IBIS analysts?

The discussion then veered into how important it is to approach vendors with requests.  Bobray pointed out that part of the responsibilities of the Business Reference Sources Committee is to approach vendors with requests.  The BRS Committee needs input regarding what databases need changes.

Directory of Obsolete Securities went online and is expensive but print is still available.

RMA now has electronic statement studies available (e statement studies).  They also recently moved to IP authentication.

4.  Mergent vs. Bureau Van Dijk

Osiris allows for a lot of data to be downloaded.  It's similar to WorldScope in coverage--it covers top tier companies in every country.

5.  Social Responsibility of companies

KLD's Socrates database ( ) (although the KLD interface is hard to use - Socrates data is available through WRDS and is easier to use) and IRRC (Investor Responsibility Research Center) are two sources for this type of information.  Calvert Investment has social responsible investing information online with some information being free   Co-Op America has some free stuff. These sources usually do not cover private companies, but news articles on smaller companies sometimes provide this type of information.  S&P has social responsibility information in Global Reports.  Value Line has some social responsibility information as well.

6.  Second Life?

There is a nine story library on Information Island with medical and law libraries - they need a business library!  Difficult because there aren't many users at one time and there isn't enough space to store information.  Being used as an online tool for distance users.  SJSU (San Jose State University) has classes online in this.  Average age is 35, not 19.  RUSA is experimenting with Second Life.  Some are contacting student associations that are on social networks.

7.  Are library book budgets decreasing?

There was some mention of turning monographic money into database money, and a discussion of current attempts to make reference collections primarily electronic. It was mentioned that Gale's small business resource center contained a number of their classic reference books online in it. 

Someone asked if people are still buying books and if not, where scholars are going to find them given the trend in business libraries to go mostly electronic.  It was mentioned that a number of scholarly books are in fact available through online vendors, while others are relying on gift money and / or approval plans to buy their print monographs.  It was also noted that many of the disciplines within the broader field of business actually don't use monographs very much for research purposes; rather, they use primarily journal articles.  Some said they no longer buy textbooks and only buy encyclopedias online.  It was mentioned that most business books circulate to other students, not business.

8.  Announcements

Announcements were brief.  The Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship needs reviewers.  Contact Ryan Womack (web review columns) or Todd Hines (database review ed) if interested.  Also, it was announced that next year will be the 20th Anniversary of BRASS and that there will be a celebration on Monday night, so when making reservations for next year, be sure to include a Monday night stay if you can.

No job openings were announced.

: This publication has been placed on the web for the convenience of BRASS members. Information and links will not be updated. Posted 28 March 2006.