Last time, I alluded to the occasional need of the business librarian in a general library to explain to the other librarians why the business school needs a variety of research databases. This explanation is particularly important in times of budget cuts. Well, this school year all the UNC campuses received (why is it “received”?) big cuts. My library ended up with a 30% reduction in collections, after several years in a row of small budget cuts. So we had to cut a lot of database subscriptions.
It didn’t take long until another liaison asserted in a collections management meeting that “we have so many business databases, and some of them are quite expensive, so we need to begin with making cuts there.” Sigh.
Yes, business databases can be expensive. And, yes, we do have some business databases we could live without (not necessarily the expensive ones, though). One category for which some cuts would be more like pruning than amputation was specialized company directories. For example, a database that specializes in corporate structure have been useful for certain research needs, but other, larger company databases now also provide the functionality to identify subsidiaries or find the ultimate parent. Many of these optional databases were print reference serials once upon a time, but within the last ten years became available as a database. (I won’t be naming any products today, with one two exceptions below.)
But many other business databases we have cover an essential content category. Scholarly business articles make up just one category – and unlike some other academic subjects, business research requires more than just articles. So I decided I needed to list those content areas, describe how the content is used, and identify the database(s) that covers each one. My report ended up being 6 pages long. I emailed it to the small group of administrators that make the final decisions on our databases budget. (Database funding comes out of one budget. We liaisons just make recommendations — part of the fun of being a subject specialist in a general library).
The report also mentioned the campus-wide scope of some of these areas. Examples include Geography, Political Science, English (a “Writing for the Professions” class), etc., all of which have classes that require business research. I also described our interdisciplinary, campus-wide entrepreneurship program that has classes in 20 majors (including the arts, sciences, and Social Work) and still growing. The database committee knew those general trends, but it never hurts to remind them of the details.
I explained that my emphasis in database selection was covering the core content areas with at least one good product, and reducing duplication of content as much as possible.
These are the core content areas I came up with for UNCG:
- business articles (scholarly, trade, news, etc.)
- consumer market reports (U.S. and international)
- consumer market data/statistics (U.S. and international)
- U.S. industry financial benchmarking/ratios
- industry reports (U.S. and international)
- corporate financial data (U.S. and international)
- investment reports/analysis
- private companies (U.S. and international)
- accounting standards/AICPA/FASB/CPA stuff
- tax standards
- global trade data
- U.S. trade data
- U.S. state export data
- one-stop shopping business databases (the kind of database that provides a variety of company and industry research plus articles)
Some databases cover more than one area, and some areas have a U.S.-focused product as well as an international product. I ended up listing two sources for U.S. consumer market data: SimplyMap and DemographicsNow, since those two complement each other so well (comparisons of places by a single data point versus detailed profiles of demographic, business count, and consumer spending data for each place.)
Writing the report became an interesting exercise for me. It helped me determine the minimum breadth of business databases by content type the campus requires. If we receive another budget cut next year, I’ll know which databases to circle the wagons around as we begin our budget discussions, and hopefully I can be more persuasive as to why we still have “so many business databases.”