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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reference USA

For a number of years the Worcester Public Library has subscribed to the residential and business databases published by Reference USA. These databases are so heavily used that we decided to provide remote access for our patrons. If your patrons would like to use these two databases from home, and they reside in Massachusetts, they can come to the Worcester Public Library and get a free library card from us.

The folks at Ref USA have compiled information on 14 million United States businesses. As a result, Ref USA is one the most comprehensive business databases being published. However, one of the drawbacks to all business databases, and this includes Ref USA, is that small private businesses generally fall through the cracks. A typical Ref USA business record includes address information, corporate information (including headquarters and all branch locations), annual sales, and credit rating score. You will be told if the company is private or public. If the company is public you also have access to SEC filings, stock exchange information, and annual reports.

Another great advantage to using Ref USA is that the database provides information on home based businesses. While the business database is certainly used to find information on a single company this is not primarily how it is used. Many of our Worcester patrons use the business database to compile lists of like companies within a geographic area for job searching or to market their own product or service. Many entrepreneurs use the database to show venture capital firms who their competition is or isn't!

The residential database holds information on 102 million United States residents. New listings are picked up by Ref USA eight to twelve weeks after they are listed in the telephone white pages. Also, Ref USA consults the national change of address database every month. So, if someone moves after they are listed in the telephone white pages, Ref USA will publish this information within a month. On the minus side, people who have unlisted phone numbers will not show up in the database at all. The residential database can also be consulted for United States census data to determine median household income, median home value, and percentage of owner occupied housing. There are many free online telephone directories out there but Ref USA is clearly the winner.

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CMRLS Regional Reference Center, Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem Sq, Worcester MA 01608