On October 16, Library Journal and School Library Journal will host “The Digital Shift: Reinventing Libraries.” Our fourth annual online event has itself been reinvented in a new format, offering program tracks focused around community, instruction, and getting beyond the container to new content.
Gale, part of Cengage Learning, is a gold sponsor of the event, and LJ reached out to Jim Draper, Vice President and General Manager, Gale, in the first of a series of interviews addressing how the ongoing digital shift is transforming the libraries of today and tomorrow.
Library Journal: What do you predict will be the next big disruption/innovation to impact the library landscape?
Jim Draper: In the public library space, we see a steady transformation, with the library evolving into a genuine educational institution. In the academic and K-12 spaces, we see the further blending of lines in terms of classroom materials and library materials. As library resources become increasingly important in support of the Common Core State Standards, we anticipate traditional library resources emerging as part of day-to-day teaching and curricula. On the academic side, students are accessing more class resources online via enhanced eTextbooks and learning management systems (LMS). My question is this: Why not connect directly with library resources through these platforms?
LJ: How does your company’s strategy reflect this?
JD: The mission of many public libraries is to support lifelong learning, and Gale products and services help to realize this goal. Gale’s Learn4Life product brings turnkey online training and education solutions to the public library market. Learn4Life offers patrons access to hundreds of instructor-led online courses on a variety of topics. Gale is also exploring ways to offer job-related credentialing through public libraries. This complements perfectly the library’s mission to support the economic growth of local communities.
On the school side, we are aligning closely with customers to demonstrate how our resources support the Common Core State Standards. Teachers, librarians, and administrators seek new ways to teach these essential skills to today’s students, and they are often evaluated on the results, so we want to support them in these efforts.
On the academic side, we’re unifying our extensive digital humanities collections on a single state-of-the-art research platform, Gale Artemis, and in doing so we’re creating the largest online curated primary source and literary collection available. Artemis empowers researchers to make connections across massive databases and to chart relationships that have heretofore been buried deep within the archives. And this is only the beginning of a massive initiative to forge our historical archives into a seamless whole. Artemis transforms the way students and scholars may explore the resources. It gives them the tools to challenge established assumptions and to think critically.
Overall, Gale’s aim is to help lead the great transformation in the world of libraries and research. By unlocking access to rare artifacts and sources of content never before available to researchers, we are creating enormous value for scholars and students. To achieve our goals, we’ve established partnerships with many leading institutions, including the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution and the Associated Press. Aligning ourselves with leading cultural institutions ensures we’re able to deliver the very best content for our patrons.
LJ: When, if ever, will libraries be primarily digital, and what will people still use print for?
JD: We’ve encountered this question on numerous occasions on the textbook side of our business, and many studies show why there is still a place for print in the academic space. Of course, this varies enormously when you consider global markets. We listen closely to our users, and as long as they continue to ask for print, we will continue to provide print. That being said, we’ve been leading and defining the shift to digital for quite some time. Everything we offer in print is available in an “e” format, and we provide access to thousands of e-titles via Gale Virtual Reference Library. We also maintain hundreds of online databases. Today, Gale’s business is about 80 percent digital.
LJ: What do you hear from libraries that their greatest needs are, and how are you striving to meet them?
JD: Let’s focus on public libraries for a moment. Public libraries continue to play fundamental roles in the lives of their patrons, such as in job search help, small business assistance, and education and training. Through products such as Career Transitions, DemographicsNow, Business Insights: Global, and Learn4Life, Gale offers cutting-edge tools designed to solve the day-to-day questions posed by library patrons.
We also advocate aggressively on behalf of libraries. We have worked directly with librarians to develop detailed guides to help libraries better tell their story—how they impact patrons’ lives and successes. The stories that emerged have served to persuade legislators that libraries have a huge impact on communities, and that library budgets should not be cut. Our programs have been so successful that Gale published the guides online for all libraries to benefit from.
LJ: What business will libraries get into that is undreamt of today?
I think the evolving role of libraries as educational institutions presents all of us with exciting new challenges. That’s why we feel Learn4Life will emerge as a pivotal resource at this exciting time. With the explosion of online learning through Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other services, libraries face new and different opportunities to support lifelong learning.
Speaking very personally, I see a world—not far off—where patrons will create new value, directly and immediately, from large data repositories, using metadata and algorithms that might not even be visible to them (the new algorithms will work “behind the scenes” and “intelligently”). This will be different, somehow, from “search,” and I sense it will require us to invent tools that balance the need for speed against the beauty of superb outcomes and results.
Jim Draper is Vice President and General Manager at Gale, part of Cengage Learning. During his tenure, he has led the creation of several publications including Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Nineteenth Century Collections Online, Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Trans-national Archive, and more. He launched Gale’s Literature Resource Center, and led efforts to migrate Gale’s print-based Literature program to 100 percent digital distribution. Draper is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a post-graduate degree in medieval languages from Oxford University. He is also a graduate of the Columbia University Rare Books School and the Denver Publishing Institute.