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Finding and keeping track of industry information is a difficult prospect for librarians not expert in its intricate and confusing methods. Colleen Anderson, who holds an MBA and an MLIS, sheds light on the subject in this guide. As a business reference librarian at Bryant University, she understands the needs of students, researchers, individual investors, and professors alike. Her guide highlights key titles and explains their use so that librarians new to the field, or long befuddled by it, can navigate their way through multiple question types and build a responsive collection. On a personal note, this is my last column as editor of "The Alert Collector." It has been my privilege to serve as a column editor during Diane Zabel's tenure as editor of RUSQ. I thank all the contributors to this column over the past six years. Your work has helped librarians build and strengthen their collections, shed light on new ways to view collection development (perhaps most notably in the areas of electronic resources and genre titles), and has illustrated that well-considered, hand-selected collections are not only at the core of our professional work, but one of its great rewards.--Editor
Monitoring industry performance is critical for estimating the success of an entrepreneurial venture, planning strategy within existing companies, and analyzing investment opportunities. In light of all the business applications for industry research, the scope of subject areas incorporating industry research is broad, encompassing entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, and business strategy. For example, patrons may need to locate industry averages for an analysis of a particular company's performance, locate an industry's major competitors to develop a business plan, or follow recent news articles on a particular industry to forecast a stock's movement for an investment project. All of these inquiries require users have adequate industry resources available to them. Questions librarians receive will frequently include a request for one or several of the following information pieces: the current and forecasted economic environment, an industry overview and forecast, industry data, industry competitors, recent news on the industry, and the industry's regulatory environment. Patrons need timely information and data, and they should be made aware of the important role the U.S. government and trade associations play in generating industry information.
The U.S. government plays an active and essential role in gathering and disseminating industry information. Through its various departments and agencies, the government is constantly monitoring economic activity to assess which businesses and industries are expanding and contracting. Data collected for these purposes is available for free through the economic census where it is arranged by the NAICS, or the North American Industry Classification Code System (www .census.gov/eos/www/naics). This system, an expansion and revision of an earlier code called the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC), uses a numerical system to describe industries. Beginning with a broad three-digit industry code, such as 311 for food manufacturing, additional numbers are assigned to describe more specific products. Thus 311230 is the code for breakfast cereal manufacturing. An example of a common way for reference databases to use a NAICS code is to list competitors within a particular NAICS product code. Librarians need to be aware that patrons will often begin their inquiry about an industry by asking for help to find the NAICS code describing a particular industry or by asking to search for information on a particular NAICS code. Many of the available reference sources containing industry information provide indexing by NACIS code number.
Trade associations also play an important role in gathering and disseminating industry information. Trade associations are contemporary guilds; i.e., cooperative associations formed by companies operating and competing within a common industry. Why would companies that compete fiercely against each other cooperate to form such an association? One major reason is to pool resources to track congressional activities and lobby for legislation favorable to the industry. Trade associations also collect industry data, develop directories of member information, and track industry news. Thus trade association websites can be rich sources of industry information; depending on the association, some of this information is often available on the website for free. Information generated by trade associations is valuable because it comes first hand from employees and executives working within a particular industry (i.e., the industry insiders). Trade associations also often publish trade journals (e.g., Adweek for the advertising industry and Beverage World for the beverage industry) carrying a wealth of news and data on the industry. Special issues of these trade journals are rich sources for industry forecasts and rankings of industry competitors. These journals are aggregated in several fee-based databases described later in this paper.
Lastly, to understand the content of many of the industry questions asked by patrons, librarians need to understand a model called Porter's Five Forces. Michael Porter, a professor at Harvard Business School and expert on competitive strategy, wrote a classic work on competitive strategy called Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (New York: Free Press, …