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Notes for The Agile Organization: Looking to the Future

First Panelist: Frank Menchaca, Publisher of Thompson Gale

Market research used to be like going out and picking a bouquet of flowers and going back to you, the librarian, and saying, “Which of these would you like?? So, before Google (and before competing resources with librarians) librarians used to be arbiters of good product ideas. Now we talk to librarians along a continuum of end users – Thompson Gale (TG) talks to faculty, students, and librarians. Now, they’re all TG’s clients.

TG is continuously looking for new business models. For example, working with British Library to publish 18th and 19th century newspapers. Will force TG to work through some new business models. Obliged to make some material for free, some pay-per-view, and then figure out ways to got beyond these things by thinking about the user experience.

What does wikipedia succeed at? It is accessible. In libraries we’ve talked ourselves into the greatness of authority over the ability to access. Now what drives TG – access - and building the user experience.

Every library tells Frank the same thing – we’ve got to be closer to the faculty.

[Click below for the notes from the rest of this session]

To be relevant as a reference publisher, we have to be right in the pathway of where students are asking questions. Making our pathways accessible on the open internet. Looking into making these findable on Google.

Goliath is selling business content right to business professionals.

What Gale was doing – catalogers/indexers work – is now on the periphery. When Frank recruits new people stays outside of libraries and publishers. Looking for people who have a natural curiosity about the curriculum and business models. Editors need to be able to sell and understand curriculum and needs of institution. Need to spend more time with customers and end-users – harvest that information and knowledge and bring back to organization.

“What happens to libraries happens to us.?
We used to be big fish in a little pond, but now are little fish in a big pond. It’s less about leaving a legacy and more about asking what other fish are there to eat them.

2nd Speaker: Christopher McKenzie – Wiley InterScience in the Americas, Higher Education Division
Topic: Textbooks and libraries

Wiley one of top 6 textbook publishers in world. Textbooks: broken. No one is happy with textbooks. And in libraries, not buying textbooks is often a written policy.
About 40% of students in a given course buy a new textbook, 40% buy a used textbook, 20% don’t buy any at all.

College bookstores have not been effective channels for the sale of e-textbook materials.

Is the solution digital?
- always current
- lower cost
- improves student outcomes
- Reduces faculty workload
- Easier fulfillment
- No used book/importation

Business model premise – if all students pay something, every student pays less. So for any Wiley course, maybe every student pays a flat fee. [Note that the used book market isn’t protected here (“And I’m okay with that.?).]

Libraries are at the center of the stakeholders. There are issues – budget, logistics, selection by faculty… The libraries have expertise to bring to bear on this (includes licensing, implementation, user training, expansive knowledge of worthwhile content).

Stephen Rhind-Tutt, Alexander Street Press

Web 2.0 – an extremely frightening scenario for publishers. Loss of control, loss of proprietary gateways tro content, expensive, new technologies, most content not created by publishers, large new players with enormous network advantages, mission statement that are the same as publishers/librarians.

Alexander Street’s response:

Create the best product in a discipline
- seek out areas that are currently ill served.
- research, find, link and license the best content from all possible sources
- find previously unpublished materials
- license and co-publish archives, authors and publishers
- provide outstanding functionality through indexing…

- Doesn’t duplicate or compete. So if you have a free website up, we’d love to link to it.
- Want to make sure that they add real value. We see ourselves as part of the community
- Want to be fast, want to be efficient

Focuses on small areas and create the best collection they can through these niches.
- Such as first person narratives (letters and diaries) that builds a parallel historical universe with voices that were never heard before. Alexander Street interested in publishing our collections.
- http://www.inthefirstperson.com – about ¾’s materials are freely available (and put up by others). Added semantic indexing (another area where librarianship has area to contribute), organizes results.
- Music Online – - another area we can add value to by focusing on specific areas. Also do this for Classical Scores Library and looking to do this for local audio archives (if you have local collections – voice, etc., where we have rights - Alexander Street interested)
- Videos – allowing people to jump right into a scene and clip. Once have a permanent URL, becomes citeable, and tagable.
- Local audio archives

Use lessons from Web2.0. For example, by offering a tag cloud. Do not perpetrate silos – more and more use will come from outside the interface. When land on particular object, may have come in from anywhere.


A minor question RE: the textbook idea. Christopher mentioned that electronic textbooks haven't been selling particularly well through campus bookstores. I would assume that a textbook is, by definition, something that is read intensively, and I wonder if there's evidence to show that students are ready to have that kind of text only in an electronic format?