It is true that “businesses in New Jersey could use a little help,” as Stu Feldstein writes in his editorial “On public records, New Jersey makes it tough on business” (NJBIZ, June 11, Page 23).
Fortunately, libraries offer that help.
Mr. Feldstein points out that business research is crucial, particularly for companies whose customers are other businesses. Access to lists for marketing and communication can be expensive for smaller businesses without funds to purchase them.
With a library card, business owners can use ReferenceUSA, a prospect management tool, to find information on over 44 million U.S. companies nationwide, including over 1.3 million in New Jersey and an additional 5 million in Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware.
Infogroup, the parent company of ReferenceUSA, is a mass information compiler of business and consumer information. Infogroup aggregates business data from Secretary of State filings, county-level public records, Yellow Page directories, Security and Exchange Commission filings and exchanges, press articles and news feeds, as well as web mining and internet research. Research staff then verify and audit the information provided in ReferenceUSA to ensure that information is accurate before being released to the public.
To Mr. Feldstein’s larger point, changes may be required in the way that public records on New Jersey businesses are made available. In the meantime, ReferenceUSA can level the playing field for business owners who cannot afford this information through the state or private sources.
The New Jersey State Library identified this need for reliable, accurate information among business owners when selecting resources to offer statewide through JerseyClicks.org, using federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. ReferenceUSA is one of 22 databases covering 13 subjects available to New Jersey residents with a public library card. Use of these resources is available at no additional cost to the patron.
ReferenceUSA is only one piece of the help libraries offer. Individual libraries may offer additional resources and information for business owners in their communities, such as tools for researching industry trends, writing business plans and learning languages or other skills. In fact, JerseyClicks.org also offers Rosetta Stone, the language-learning product.
I invite anyone who has not used a public library in years, or even decades, to take another look and find out what is available in their own backyards.
As state officials and agencies look for new models for stimulating entrepreneurship across New Jersey, I encourage them to remember libraries as a key place for research and innovation. Yes, Google does provide millions of results, but the resources in libraries include quality information that is so valuable, companies keep it behind a paywall. Further, libraries purchase these resources directly for the benefit of their communities and do so at a cost far below what each beneficiary would pay out of pocket.
Andrea Simzak Levandowski
Consultant, Small Business Development & Technology
New Jersey State Library