Best of the Best Business Websites (Free Resources): The 2009 Selection

Business Reference and Services Section Education Committee

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Welcome to “Best of the Best Business Websites (Free Resources),” the first annual selection and review of three of the most highly relevant business websites as selected by Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS) Education Committee members. These were presented at the RUSA Book and Media Awards Reception in Denver at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January 2009. This review represented the first time that the BRASS Education Committee participated in the aforementioned award’s reception. The Education Committee maintains a number of webpages devoted to annotations and links to business-related websites of various topics. The committee has roughly 250 websites that it recommends. The rationale for choosing only three websites to feature, or hold up as “winners,” was based primarily on logistics. We needed just a few winners to present and we decided on the following three because of their relevance to the current global economic recession. We hope you find the following sources helpful and encourage you to explore all of our other picks at the RUSA/BRASS website. Furthermore, we encourage you to explore the “Selected Core Resources” at the RUSA/BRASS website.

Banking

Bank Rate Monitor, www.bankrate.com

Two elements make a website “the best”: content and format. One without the other will not work. Bank Rate Monitor is an example of professional content that has been formatted in such a way so that reliable data is easy to find, time-sensitive information is easily tracked, and consumers can get the information they need quickly.

Bankrate, the company that is behind Bank Rate Monitor, started in 1976 as Bank Rate Monitor, a print publication for the banking industry. After two decades of providing rate research and information to the banking industry, they launched Bank Rate Monitor onto the Web.

Bank Rate Monitor has broadened their content to include a variety of financial services, including the following:

  • Expanded financial applications and information to a network of online distribution partners and national, regional, and local publications
  • Competitive insurance rates for auto, home, life, health, and long-term care
  • A comprehensive line of consumer and business credit cards
  • An open marketplace to break down complicated vendor fees associated with the mortgage loan process, empowering consumers with comprehensive information to make informed decisions and reduce their real estate and mortgage transaction costs
  • Editorial listings and other products that assist consumers and financial professionals to learn more about options for college financing

Content is critical, but next to content is accessibility. A majority of financial data on the Internet is intended for the professional; thus a consumer is often lost and confused while plowing through data that financial websites provide. Bank Rate Monitor is different—it is intended for personal and consumer finance.

Bank Rate Monitor runs under the assumption that for many financial services customers remain uniformed when making financial decisions. Thus Bank Rate Monitor attempts to offer professional data in a format that a consumer can use. With the advent of the Internet, individuals tend to seek new sources of independent, objective data. Bank Rate Monitor is a good resource for that data.

There are four components that make up the services Bank Rate Monitor provides: financial product research, editorial content, consumer marketing, and seasonality.

The financial product research is impressive. Although their research content typically does not provide a list of resources, like librarians prefer, it does provide some excellent analysis of current financial trends and how they affect consumers.

Bankrate.com provides elaborate editorials on issues facing the current consumer. With the financial issues that are currently at hand, these editorials provide expert opinions on what caused them and what it will take to remove them.

Consumer marketing is another critical component. Bank Rate Monitor provides excellent information on various aspects of the marketing scenario that proves useful to the consumer.

As seasons change, so do the needs and desires of the consumer. Bank Rate Monitor provides an excellent balance of resources that change according to the season.

Bank Rate Monitor is a great website for a variety of financial-related needs, but are there any weaknesses? Perhaps, the biggest weakness, which is also a strength, is that it is free. There is only so much financial data that can be provided free to the consumer. While Bank Rate Monitor does provide some excellent resources, it should not be considered an answer to all patron inquiries regarding financial data.—Garrett Trott, Reference/Instruction Librarian, Corban College, Salem, Oregon

Human Resource Management and Labor Relations

HrGopher, www.hrgopher.com

HrGopher is a one-of-a-kind human resources Web portal that includes a comprehensive listing of more than fifty thousand links. What distinguishes this portal from other human resources websites is the specific target audience of business owners, human resource managers, and companies from all areas of business.

HrGopher digs specifically into current human resources topics, for example, outsourcing. It also covers all areas of employment law topics and links to specific government websites about workplace guidelines. Keeping employers and employees up-to-date is a main focus of this site. The news section on the front page includes latest news briefs and cases in human resources areas. To help new users navigate the website, HrGopher includes an FAQ that lists common problems and questions in human resources. Links are provided to direct users to appropriate answers. HrGopher’s purpose is to strive to help users find the most specific information, and the FAQ does an excellent job of making navigation easier for users.

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