The next stop on my tour was the computer databases. This is probably the easiest place to gather information because you can print straight from the computer (for a fee), download information to a disk and even e-mail information to your office's PC if the databases are Internet-based. If you're looking for either general information on an industry or specific information on a company, InfoTrac SearchBank, an online reference system, is probably your best bet. Click on General Business File to search under topic, SIC code or a specific business name. It calls up articles (full-text as well as summary abstracts) from its index of more than 900 publications, company profiles and links to other relevant topics. The company profiles include business descriptions, sales and stock ticker (if available), officers, investment reports, links to online articles on the company, and profiles of the its subsidiaries.
You can also use the National Newspaper Index and General Reference Center on SearchBank to look up articles in newspapers and magazines. If only an abstract pops up, ask the librarian whether they carry the publication in their collection or on microfilm.
Looking for basic information on your competition, possible business partners or sales leads? Try the American Business Disc database, which carries more than 10 million listings you can search by category (like a telephone directory), location, sales volume, employee count or the name of the company. The listings show the companies' contact information, executives and, for public companies, their sales.
Another source of information on publicly-traded companies is Moody's Company Data, a database that includes highlights of each company's history, income information, subsidiaries and any properties the company owns. If your library doesn't have this database, check the reference stacks for Moody's books.