One of the stories from libraryland that caught my attention last week was Stephen Abram moving from SirsiDynix to Gale. If for no other reason, he must be relieved that he no longer has to say "SirsiDynix" with a straight face, since that has to be one of the sillier company names around, whereas "Gale" sounds sensible. ("Cengage Learning" sounds a bit pompous, though.)
And Gale is sensible, of course. Vendors are popping up all over the place to provide new things no one wants or needs, but Gale has been providing great reference works for 50 years. Currently, Gale provides not only excellent reference works, but also historical primary source documents over a wide range of topics, and all in a relatively easy to use interface. In addition, I’ve never found their vendors in the least annoying and never got the feeling I get with some companies that they’re mainly trying to screw people over at any cost.
I’m not some blogger paid to pitch a product, by the way. I actually like Gale. And because I like Gale, the only change I want to see is them providing even more great resources at an affordable price. Thus, I was slightly disturbed by this comment Abram made to LJ:
"Describing himself as a ‘change agent,’ Abram told LJ that part of his task in his new role would be to help Gale transform itself from being known as publisher of directories and databases to a company known for faciliating [sic] ‘community experiences.’"
Oh, Stephen, I’m begging you, please don’t.
Gale is really good at publishing directories and databases. They do good work. We like them. Plus, Gale already facilitates a "community experience" by providing those big buses at ALA that shuttle sedentary librarians between the conference hotels and the convention center. That always facilitates a community of jolly librarians experiencing a bus ride. If only the provided free chocolate, the librarian "community experience" would be complete!
They facilitate other "community experiences," or at least I think they do. Don’t they have a breakfast or reception or something at ALA? I’m almost sure I’ve been to one. That’s a pleasant and obviously memorable "community experience."
But I’m not sure what "community experience" can be facilitated around reference works or collections of primary source material. I suppose they could add Twitter and Facebook buttons for people who consider those worthwhile "community experiences," but by the time people use Gale databases, they just want to commune with the reference entry or primary source, not with each other.
Admittedly, I’m not a "change agent." Quite the opposite. Calls for change usually find me rustling in my purse for some spare quarters and dimes rather than inspiring me to shuffle things around at work to make myself look busy. Change agents can often do good things, but some things shouldn’t change. If you change perfection, you get something worse, not better.
Is Gale perfect? I’m not saying that. But I am saying that it’s a good thing that Gale is "known as publisher of directories and databases." That’s what librarians want from them (well, that and the buses), and they do it so well that to think of changing that core mission makes me uneasy. So, Gale, please, pretty please, keep on being one of the the best darn publishers of directories and databases in the world. Give me more of them, with better interfaces! But please don’t facilitate any community experiences for me. Gale, don’t go changing to try and please me. I like you just the way you are.