Your government is spending your tax dollars more effectively than you ever could. Don’t believe it? Just click onto www.njstatelib.org and discover how the lifeblood of business has been organized and delivered to your desk.
Information, as the saying goes, is the blessed sap of commerce. Black ink flows to the owner who knows his competition, his market, and his optimum suppliers better than his fellows. And no one supplies this information faster, more accurately, and with greater customization than the New Jersey State Library Business Center and its staff of information resource professionals.
For the business person, the library at a distance has come of age. The New Jersey State Library, acting as a hub, has webbed and linked its amazing wealth of business materials through special programs and to public libraries across the state. Much of this business aid comes in the form of library-accessible databases that are too rich for even a large corporation’s blood. EBSCOSuite, which delivers full text articles from thousands of journals worldwide, weighs in with an annual subscriber fee of $812,000. The popular Reference USA, with its extensively detailed and crossed indexed information on 13 million U.S. businesses and 120 million U.S. households, costs nearly that much.
These are just two of the 27 primary databases the New Jersey State Library shares with all the of the state’s public libraries. Also, each public library has its own list of additional databases, such as South Brunswick’s Associated Press’s Accunet and Princeton’s JUSTOR, an historic archive of academic journals dating back 200 years. Almost all of these databases, except those forbidden in the subscriber’s contractual agreement, can be accessed from your home computer. For the remainder one must make pilgrimage to the local or state library.
The first step is to get a card to your local library. Visit www.njlibraries.org to find your library’s location and its website. Those wanting to go straight to the source, may come in, browse, and borrow at the state library, which is located on 185 State Street in Trenton. Call 609-292-6220 for more information or check www.njstatelib.org for directions.
Those who live or work farther north might find the Newark Public Library more convenient. Housing the state’s largest in-house business collection, it brims with endless resources, with a strong non-profit section. It is located at 5 Washington Street in Newark. Call 973-733-7784 or visit www.npl.org for directions and more information.
Whether you enter by foot, phone, or web, the above resources can give you the information you need at any stage of business.
Quick answers. You’ve got to find the names of three vendors who can deliver in an hour. You need some quick statistics to beef up that marketing report due yesterday. Who ya gonna call? Luckily, a host of free expert researchers are ready to help.
Visit www.njstatelib.org and click on “Ask a Librarian.” Type in your question and receive an E-mailed answer within two days. You can also request photocopies or books. Too slow? Call the state library’s reference department directly, at 609-292-6220, and the librarian will do the hunting.
Phone your local library. The trained professional behind the local library desk has access to many of the resources available from the state. If the reference librarian can’t give an answer while you wait, he will phone you back, and he will always provide source references. For more technical questions, try the Newark Public Library’s business center at 973-733-7779.
Jersey Clicks is a statewide information portal, with a website at www.jerseyclicks.org. It lets you type in keyword searches and watch while it swiftly hunts through 15 massive databases for full text articles on the subject. The databases range from Lexis-Nexis, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and ABI Business Online to lists of contemporary authors and Academic Search Premier, which offers full texts from over 3,200 scholarly journals. Jersey Clicks’ Custom Search allows you to tailor your search to specific databases and JerseyCat hunts up any book in any Garden State library.
QandANJ, www.qandanj.org, allows you to chat and co-browse with a librarian in real time. Hundreds of professional librarians from scores of libraries around the state man the computers 24/7, 359 days a year.
Now in its fourth year, this service, administered by the State Library, is free to all residents. Your chat appears on screen right, websites appear on screen left, and you can even get a transcript of your entire session.
For the entrepreneur. One of the best $6 million investments the state of New Jersey made in its 2005 budget launched the New Jersey Knowledge Initiative, www.njki.org. Spearheaded by State Librarian Norma Blake, this program supplies an online, specialized library for small businesses. Entrepreneurs can check out marketing surveys, potential customer demographics, existing competitors, and more. It even links startup owners with the many governmental and private entrepreneurial help agencies. To get a business card and program details, call program director Susan Kaplan at 609-984-3286.
For growing companies. Between the listings in the exhaustive Reference USA and nearly as extensive Hoover’s Online, it is hard for a company to hide. With ReferenceUSA’s (www.referenceusa.com) beautifully cross-linked and indexed listings, it becomes a simple matter for, say, a steering wheel cover retailer, to find all the taxicab and trucking companies in his area. A full list of suppliers, competitors, and even local purchasing habits make this tool a marketer’s dream. Hoovers (www.hoovers.com) offers a more global approach and is popular with larger firms, but is still provides great detail.
For those seeking the most current news, www.BusinessWire.com keeps tabs on all the latest products, trades, and corporate moves. Www.BizWeb.com also gives a quickly updated business picture of over 45,000 companies, linked into 750 categories.
James Capuano, supervising reference librarian for 27 years at the Newark Public Library, notes an increased use of Blacks Guide (www.blacksguide.com) for those with real estate questions. This database lists and categorizes over 80,000 commercial properties in l9 metropolitan areas.
Capuano also notes that many of his library’s business visitors seek the aid of reference librarians for trademark and brand searches. It is easy to confuse federal, state, and regional claims. He assures that all information and ideas are kept in strictest secrecy.
For non-profits. If you are trying to launch a non-profit organization, a visit to the State Library in Trenton or the Newark Public Library’s business center is well worth the trek. The libraries’ reference librarians are experienced in walking newcomers through the steps and setting them up with the resources.
For established non-profits, the best bet is to call 609-292-6259 and talk with Teri Taylor. Taylor oversees the non-profit business collection at the State Library. She is the one who can set you up with resources such as National Foundation Center, which lists over 80,000 foundations and donors, as well as a half-million record of recently awarded grants. If your questions are long and involved, the librarians invite you to call ahead and make an appointment so they can have the materials waiting.
For investors. A surprising number of library business patrons are individuals seeking an investing edge. In addition to the latest bond quotes from the Wall Street Journal, patrons are checking out potential firms on EDGAR, the SEC’s electronic data gathering, analysis, and retrieval system. A Garden State version of such checking is available through the New Jersey State Business Gateway Service, www.access.state.nj.us/home.asp.
Regional Business News and USA Trade Online, both restricted to onsite library use, have also become increasingly valued investor tools.
The reference staff at the State Library and the Newark Public Library like to boast that they help launch or expand anyone’s business. Yet the Newark folks were recently taken aback at the request from one seemingly mild mannered man who came in requesting a listing of foreign markets where he could sell his services. When pressed, he would only define these services as being of “a deeply personal and intimate nature.”
“Oh well,” says Capuano, “I guess we can’t help everybody.”