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Using Library Databases to Answer Common Business Questions

The Indianapolis Public Library (IndyPL), the Marion County Internet Library (funded by the Indianapolis Foundation) and the INSPIRE network (funded by the State of Indiana) offer many reference sources online for your use in the Library, at work or at home. You can access these databases at www.ilibrary.org, by logging in with your library card and pin number. Some of these provide the full text of magazine articles, others may list companies or organizations. As compared to general Internet searches, these products are better organized and data-rich.

In order to help you select a database to address particular business needs we have come up with a list of common business questions, paired with our recommendations as to the databases and methods most useful in answering those questions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The address of a company?

Probably the easiest thing to do is search the company name using ReferenceUSA. ReferenceUSA has addresses for over 24 million companies. If the name you are looking for is fairly common, say for instance "Brown Construction", you might want to also specify a city or a state. Leave off parts of the name like "Corp." or "Inc." You can use an asterisk to truncate a name if you are uncertain of the spelling (pantomi* would search for names like "pantomime", "pantomine", "pantomimes", etc.). (For more info see ReferenceUSA Searching and Downloading Instructions.) Another database to check is Dun and Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database. If you can't find the address there you might try Switchboard on the Internet, or call us at 275-4100.

What business is at a particular address?

ReferenceUSA can do this. In ReferenceUSA, first choose U.S Businesses Database, then go to Custom Search. Click Expand All. Check the boxes for address and city if you know that. Fill in some of the address, though it's best to leave off things like "St", "N" or "Cir", since it's hard to know if they might be abbreviated. For example try "9908 Leone", rather than "9908 Leone Drive" or 9908 Leone Dr". If you are unsure of spelling use the asterisk for truncation -- portabell* would retrieve both "portabello" and "portabella." (For more info see ReferenceUSA Searching and Downloading Instructions.)

What person is at a particular address?

ReferenceUSA can do this. In ReferenceUSA first choose U.S. Standard white Pages Database, then go to Custom Search. Click "Expand All". Check the boxes for address and city if you know that. Fill in some of the address, though it's best to leave off things like "St", "N" or "Cir", since it's hard to know if they might be abbreviated. For example try "9908 Leone", rather than "9908 Leone Drive" or 9908 Leone Dr". If you are unsure of spelling use the asterisk for truncation -- portabell* would retrieve both "portabello" and "portabella". After you have retrieved a particular residential listing, you can look down at the bottom record, where a drop-down box allows you to find other residences within a particular radius of that person.

Who owns a company?

There are more than twenty four million companies in the United States. Only about 20,000 of these are "public" companies. Those are owned by their shareholders. The other "private" companies may be owned by other companies, or individuals. It is usually possible to find a company that owns another company. Individual owners are harder to come by. It is a lot easier to identify a president of a private company. That president may be the owner, but we can't know that for sure. ReferenceUSA and Dun and Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database are good resources for this. In ReferenceUSA, if a company has an "up arrow" next to its record, clicking there will take you to the parent company. The full record will list presidents, and sometimes other officers. (For more info see ReferenceUSA Searching and Downloading Instructions.) 

The parent of a company?

As above in looking for ownership of any kind ReferenceUSA and Dun and Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database would be good choices. "Parent" simply means a company which owns another company. In a large company there can be several layers, with each company owned by a parent until one gets to the ultimate parent. In ReferenceUSA, if a company has an "up arrow" next to it's record, clicking there will take you to the parent company. The full record will list presidents, and sometimes other officers. (For more info see ReferenceUSA Searching and Downloading Instructions.)

The sales, or other financial data for a company?

If a company is publicly traded (listed on a stock exchange), you can find a lot of financial detail on a company. On our site you can search Business Insights: Essentials, which has independent reports from ValuEngine Inc, Reuters Investment Profiles, SADIS Investment Analytics, Trefis, etc. For privately owned firms, you're likely to only find a sales figure, which you can locate in ReferenceUSA and Dun and Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database. Dun & Bradstreet also sells detailed credit reports on many private companies.

Info on private companies?

All but about 20,000 of the 24 million companies in the United States are private companies (i.e. not listed on a stock exchange, or otherwise publicly traded). You can use several library databases to find such basic info as address, phone, owner, sales, and industry on private companies. Other databases can lead to articles in the local or national press. Use ReferenceUSA or Dun and Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database for the basic info. (For more info see ReferenceUSA Searching and Downloading Instructions.) Articles can be found in Business Insights: Essentials and Business Source Premier.

Info on public companies?

Detailed information on the approximately 20,000 publicly traded companies is relatively easy to find. On the Internet, you can find information in the Securities and Exchange Commission's Edgar database, or at the Yahoo Finance page. More information can be found in Business Insights: Essentials and Business Source Premier

A brand name?

Rather than using ilibrary.org databases, the best way to search for brand names, trademarks, service marks, and tradenames is on the Web at the Patent and Trademark Office using theTrademark Electronic Search System. The Trademark Division of the Indiana Secretary of State can be contacted at (317) 232-6540 for information on trademarks registered at the state level.

If anyone is using a name I'm thinking of for my business?

If a company has registered their name as a tradename at the federal level they will appear in a Patent and Trademark Office database called theTrademark Electronic Search System. At the state level the Indiana Secretary of State has a Business Entity Name Search. Many companies don't register their name, and still have some common-law legal rights to the name, so you might also want to check ReferenceUSA listings of 24,000,000 US firms or Dun and Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database. (For more info see ReferenceUSA Searching and Downloading Instructions.)

Articles on a company?

For a national slant, try General Businessfile, Business Source Premier, or Business Insights: Essentials. For local or regional coverage try Indianapolis Star/News. In any of these databases searching for a company is pretty simple. Usually you just type the company name in the search box. It's best to leave off words like "Corp." or "Inc." or "Co.", since they vary so much.

An article which appeared in the Star?

The full text of the Indianapolis Star is available on the Indianapolis Star/News database. The Indianapolis Star's own website also has a searchable archive, though there is a fee to view the full-text of the article. 

An article which appeared in the IBJ?

Business Insights: Essentials has most articles from the Indianapolis Business Journal. There is a search box for the name of the journal, which you'd fill in with the full name "Indianapolis Business Journal". Then also put keywords in either the subject or company name box. (If there is no assigned subject matching your term, the file will search for your keywords in the title and abstract. Proquest Newstand also has coverage. The Indianapolis Business Journal also offers a searchable archive on their website. There is a fee to view the full text.

Companies ranked by sales?

Dun and Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database offers the most efficient ranking tool. Use “Advanced Search”. “Add Criteria” (i.e. location, industry) and “Run Search”. The resulting company list can be ranked by sales or employees in either ascending or descending order.

Technically the only other database that does this is Business Insights: Essentials, although you can do a similar thing in ReferenceUSA. Business Insights: Essentials lists about 400,000 of the largest companies in the US (compared to ReferenceUSA's 24,000,000). That difference is not too critical here since in a ranked list we are usually looking for the largest companies. In Business Insights: Essentials you can display a ranked list within a given city or state, or within an SIC or NAICS code. In Business Insights: Essentials to rank within a city, choose "Company Finder", then fill in the country, state and city boxes. Click the "Update" button after each selection. The ranked list will appear on the right side of the screen. To rank within an SIC or NAICS code choose "Company Finder", then put the 4 digit SIC or 6 digit NAICS code in the SIC or NAICS code Search box. Click the "Update" button. You can fill in both a geographic box and an SIC or NAICS number if you want to know for instance the largest paint manufacturers (SIC 2851) in Ohio. [Note: sales ranks are for the company as a whole, even if paint may only represent 1/3 of their total sales.]

In ReferenceUSA, you can choose "Custom Search" and check off the box for either "Employees" or "Sales Volume". You can further choose boxes for SIC or NAICS, or city or state to refine your search. Limiting by employees or sales allows you to display all the companies within a given sales range (e.g. $1 million to $2.499 million) or employee range (e.g. 50-99). The results are not ranked but do only include those with the specified sales or employee parameters. (For more info see ReferenceUSA Searching and Downloading Instructions.)

How a given industry is doing?

Business (magazine) databases such as Business Insights: Essentials and Business Source Premier are useful for finding industry information. You can simply type in the industry, such as "telecommunications industry". If it's more obscure you might leave off the word "industry" -- for instance "magnetohydrodynamics". You can also combine terms to limit a search to particular aspects of an industry, as for example, "telecommunications" and ("statistics" or "surveys"). Business Insights: Essentials offers two additional industry searching options. "Advanced Search" has a search box to enter an SIC or NAICS code if you know that for an industry. Standard & Poor’s Net Advantage database contains the Standard & Poor’s Industry Surveys. Under “S&P Publication Search”, choose the major industry you want to search and hit “Go”.  For industry financial ratios, consult the printed publication RMA Annual Statement Studies (located at Central Library, 4th Floor, Desk Ref 657.3).

Information on a businessperson?

Biography in Context is a good source to find information on a businessperson. Simply type the name in. The business (magazine) databases like Business Insights: Essentials and Business Source Premier are another good source for articles on businesspeople.

What SIC and NAICS codes are, and how I can use them in these databases?

The federal government's Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system and the more recently created North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) are numeric codes that identify particular industries. For a further description of those codes visit the Census Bureau's SIC or NAICS page. SIC codes and NAICS codes are used by the federal government to generate statistics about an industry; however, many databases, reference books and websites use these codes to group information by industry. For instance, ReferenceUSA, a database of 24 million firms, has an SIC field which allows you to display all of the companies which do the same thing. On a practical level, let's suppose you wanted to use ReferenceUSA to find the competitors of Wolfson-Young Corp, an Indianapolis firm specializing in construction management. Searching for them in ReferenceUSA shows them to have an SIC of 8741-04. By doing a custom search for that SIC in Indiana, I find 69 such firms in Indiana. (For more info see ReferenceUSA Searching and Downloading Instructions.)

Business Insights: Essentials is a magazine database with a field for searching by SIC or NAICS code and can yield industry info, or provide a ranked list of the largest companies in a particular code.

Articles which appeared in the Wall Street Journal?

A number of databases we subscribe to index the contents of the Wall Street Journal; however, only one, Proquest National Newstand, has the full-text.

Trade associations for a particular industry?

Encyclopedia of Associations from Gale Group provides information on 460,000 international, national, regional and state associations and organizations. Choose "Advanced Search" to see the available options. If you're searching for things on the "Telecommunications Industry", try putting "telecommunications" in either the Name or the Subject Category fields.

Wholesalers?

Once again, ReferenceUSA, a database of 24 million companies, is useful for this task. Click the tab for "Custom Search". Check the box under "Business Type" that says "Major Industry Group". Check any other criteria you wish to limit by (e.g. Business Size, City, Zip, etc). On the search screen that is produced, highlight "Wholesale/Distributors" in the "Major Industry Group" box. Then click the "View Now" button. (For more info see ReferenceUSA Searching and Downloading Instructions.)

A company's 800 number?

While ReferenceUSA does have some 800 numbers, there are better sites on the Internet for this kind of search. You might want to try Anywho, or The Internet 800 Directory for toll-free numbers.