Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The world of reference is strange and mysterious. A couple of days ago I profiled the Statistical Handbook on Women in America. Today as soon as I went out to the desk, someone wanted to see statistics about the numbers of women on welfare in the U.S., by race. We found more recent tables in the Statistical Abstract, but going to the Statistical Handbook on Women in America found more specific information, taken from different census tables. I told the patron he could look those tables up in the most recent census. He went away pretty happy, I think.

In sum: profiling reference books works.

As another sidenote, my department continues to use a Blogger blog to profile reference questions. I have to say, I'm having a hard time deciding whether I should go back to listing the questions I'm asked. I understand the potential objections to doing it, but on the other hand, if there's a real problem with it, then I shouldn't have just posted here about the women-on-welfare question. I believe there's value in maintaining a sense of confidentiality around patron requests, but I think there's also a danger in becoming senselessly secretive. Libraries are, in large part, about the free flow of information. Does that mean we should let patron queries flow onto the Internet? I'm still stumped.

Meanwhile, I profile more reference books.

Today, a couple from the same stable: two books about the media and communications industry.

Plunkett's Entertainment & Media Industry Almanac
Jack W. Plunkett, 2002-2003 (annual)

I just had a conversation with a friend this weekend about what the heck Bluetooth is. If only I'd known I could have looked it up in Jack's short glossary, in the front of this book.

The main body of the almanac is a listing of 366 entertainment and media companies, providing vital statistics such as address, financial information, contacts, affiliations, etc. There's also a field for recording how many apparent women officers each company has, as well as a notification if a company seems to be a good place for a woman or minority person to work and advance. A typical entry, pared down to the most basic information and what interests me, looks a bit like this:

First Look Media (www.firstlookmedia.com)
Ranks within this company's industry group: Sales 21; Profits 29
Types of business: independent film distribution
Contacts: Christopher Cooney, CEO [et al.]
Phone: 310-855-1199
Financials: 2001 sales in thousands: $28,200; 2001 profits in thousands: $-1,400
Competitive advantage: focus on international markets
Apparent women officers or directors: one

There's a break-out box outlining the company's growth plans and special features, and listing some of its better-known products (Antonia's Line, The Secret of Roan Inish, Titus, etc.)

Companies are listed alphabetically, but you can also look them up via their parent company, in the index in the back.

There are several narrative chapters in this book as well, giving major industry trends and an industry overview (charts and tables included.) There's also a really interesting section on project budgeting examples, which breaks down the estimated production costs of the "average" feature-length film and hour-long television program.

This one's interesting for media hounds and people wanting to pry into some of the nooks and crannies of the entertainment industry (including such narrow byways as 3-D video arcade games and bingo supplies.) Some of the bigger companies will be covered by other business sources, but I'm pretty sure this offers more depth in the industry than the general sources can do.

Hoover's Guide to Media Companies
Hoover's, Inc., 1996

Ah, Hoover's. The business standby. I haven't done business reference in a very long time (we have a separate desk in our library), so I'm a little rusty on what we have, but I'm pretty sure this isn't our most recent edition. Still, it's fun to look through.

Hoover's profiles companies in much the same way as Plunkett does, providing an initial industry overview and then a "list-lover's compendium" showing the 200 largest media companies (Sony won in 1996), the 200 fastest-growing companies, the top-earning US magazines, the newspapers with the highest circulation (USA Today beat New York Times), the top 10 web publishers, and so on. (There's a slightly depressing table showing the Publishers Weekly bestsellers for 1995; Danielle Steel takes 2 of the 5 spots in fiction.)

The profiles are alphabetical by company name, and they list pretty much the same vital stats as Plunkett does. Hoover's adds key competitors and a little more narrative, as well as slightly more thorough financials. There's also not complete overlap in who gets covered in each book; First Look isn't in Hoover's, and Encyclopedia Britannica isn't in Plunkett. Hoover's offers profiles for the "top" media companies, and then for a selection of extras, including Playboy Enterprises, Inc. (Which grossed $247.2 million in 1995.)

There's a list of further "key" media companies in the back, as well as several indices (including one by geographical location.)

Obviously, this one is highly geared to business researchers; in some ways, it seems more so than Plunkett's, at least to first glance.


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