Academic Publishing, Learning from Libraries, Libraries

Changing sides: From Publisher to Library

In the academic publishing world, every now and again you meet librarians who have moved across to work for a publisher, or vice versa. We wondered about their motivations and experiences, so we decided to talk to some of them.
Three weeks ago, we spoke to Tash Edmonds, who left her job as a librarian to join ProQuest. This week, we spoke to someone who used to work for Cambridge University Press and moved from the UK to Sweden to become a librarian.

Jonathan McCrow

  • Please give us your name and describe your role.

Jonathan McCrow
License Coordinator – Librarian
Licenssamordnare – Bibliotekarie
Stockholm University Library

  • What makes your library a special place to work?

At Stockholm University we all work in diverse working groups in order to meet the needs of our patrons and to support the university. My working group is the Licensing Group – looking after all e-resource acquisition and Open Access. I, fortunately, get to work within a small team of very experienced librarians with a wealth of knowledge for me to slowly steal, bit by bit.
Within the license group, we aim to meet our Media Plan strategy as best we can. A strategy that we treat as our standards guideline – laid out by the library director and steering committee. With a straight-forward strategy focussing on patron and usage-driven acquisition, we have a clear pathway and game plan as to how we will meet our users’ needs with regards to academic resources. This, of course, doesn’t fend off the usual challenges acquisition teams typically face – budget restraints, inflexible sales models, etc. – but it does give us reasoning and focus.

  • Why did you choose to become / what do you enjoy about being a librarian?

Brexit. If the UK had not voted for us to leave the European Union, then I would not have applied to Information Science MSc courses in Europe – wishing to squeeze in some last-minute free studying as an EU citizen. Without one thing leading to another, I would not have studied for a librarianship master’s degree and I would not have ended up in Stockholm, Sweden.
The work I now do as a librarian has been a true eye-opener. Although there were many practices on this side of the fence that I have always known about, it has been a joy to watch them in motion. With the knowledge and experience I garnered in Academic Publishing I now get to discuss the industry of academic research/publishing without any blinkers on – this is quite refreshing.

  • What was your responsibility when you worked in publishing?

During my years working in academic publishing, I have almost exclusively worked in e-resource sales. The years spent selling e-resources in the Nordics were a particular highlight for me, as I got to meet many nice librarians and visit many gorgeous libraries.
Following my years as a sales rep, I worked as the development manager for the journals team – sat in between the sales teams and the journals editorial teams. Half of my work was assisting sales teams globally with transitions to new sales models. The other half of my work was to assist the editorial teams with the management of the academic journals from a sales and financial point of view. With so much change going on, it was imperative the two teams had a bridging employee to direct conversations and link working practices together.
My work with journals was extensive – as was the sales work for ebooks, with a strong focus on Evidence-Based Acquisition. Working with a varied set of different tasks and slightly different fields of interest gave me a nice balance to keep me interested and on my toes.

  • How does your experience of working in publishing help you in your current role?

My years of following the journal editorial and production processes allowed me the good fortune of learning all the general intricacies of journal publishing, plus many irregular matters. Trying as we are to transition to a world of Open Access publishing, we in my working group are tasked with assisting researchers as they attempt to author their articles as Open Access. My previous experiences with journals publishing and knowledge of Open Access has given me a real boost in this field, allowing me to assist our authors as best I can.

  • How does the work as a librarian compare to what you used to do in a publishing company?

Working for an academic institution feels quite different from working for a commercial publisher. Not to suggest things are more relaxed working in a library, but there sure are fewer people rushing and whizzing around – darting from one meeting to the next. We are of course kept extremely busy, working within similar cycles as academic publishers and sales teams – tied almost strictly to the terms of the academic year. Even during the ‘quiet’ months over summer outside of the academic year, we still had plenty of work to do to prepare for the new term starting in September. I remember doing similar things and waiting for the new term to start when I was working for a publishing company – not much has changed in that respect.

  • What are the particular challenges you face as a librarian?

In very similar fashion to publishers, we on the library side have to keep ourselves up to date with so many different aspects of scholarly communications. It is not just Open Access – although this does top the bill. The management of our catalogues and acquisition portfolios really does keep us busy, as we are expected to keep abreast of model changes and the different approaches publishers have. More so when adjustments to how e-resources are offered changes in one way or another – especially when we are not informed until after the fact. When it comes to data and information sharing, we all need to make improvements and streamline our information channels.

  • Is there anything else you would like our readers to know (about yourself or your library)?

Librarians are cool. Never forget it. Librarians in Sweden more so than all the others – with all further librarians worldwide coming a close second.

Academic Publishing, Learning from Libraries, Libraries

Changing sides: From Library to Publisher

In the academic publishing world, every now and again you meet librarians who have moved across to work for a publisher, or vice versa. We wondered about their motivations and experiences, so we decided to talk to some of them.

Tash Edmonds

  • Please give us your name and describe your role.

Tash Edmonds, Senior Book Sales Specialist at ProQuest

My role involves working very closely with library teams to aid them with their collection and acquisitions strategies and key purchasing decisions for books, both print and electronic. This can range from helping support Print to E initiatives, reviewing procurement policies and implementing new acquisition models. I am expected to have a very high level of sector expertise and product knowledge and the skills to be able to ascertain what is the right solution for a specific library to help them achieve their departmental and institution-wide goals.

  • What makes your company a special place to work?

ProQuest take a very customer focused approach and that appealed greatly to me and is one of the reasons I have stayed for the past four years and am proud to work here. We do listen to the market and endeavour to be as responsive to change and innovative with our products, as much as our libraries require us to be.

On a personal level, I have always felt that every colleague, regardless of role or position within the company does have a voice and there are channels through which you can be heard to make suggestions and share ideas. That’s so important when working for a large organisation and is something that I believe is a core value at ProQuest and makes it a special place to work.

  • Why did you choose / what do you enjoy about working for a publishing company?

I was intrigued about the inner mechanics of an aggregator and how the relationship with libraries worked from their perspective. As a librarian in HE I saw so many changes in the sector in terms of content, platforms, licensing etc, some which I found positive, confusing and at times, downright irritating, and so I wanted to gain some insight into the rationale behind certain decisions.  My interest was with ebooks and the advantages that they can offer researchers and library users in terms of access and collaboration, and I liked the direction ProQuest was heading with their ebook platform.  I’m an inquisitive person so it did feel like being in The Wizard of Oz and seeing what was behind the curtain!

My biggest enjoyment is getting to work with my libraries and trying in some small way to help them with their day to day roles, as well as supporting them with larger initiatives and collection polices that they are working towards within their institutions. Librarians have a high level of expertise and tend to be very generous with sharing knowledge so I’m lucky to be able to learn a lot from them as well.

  • What was your responsibility when you worked in a library?

I was a member of the Acquisitions Team, starting off as a library assistant before becoming one of the team leaders. I worked on pretty much all aspects of Collections from managing access and resourcing material types for print and electronic journals and books, administering DDA programs and having responsibility for the accessible formats service which supported students with a variety of learning differences. I also was an active member of the library’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion group working on ways to make the collection and library space as inclusive as possible for all users. My commitment to equality led me to take part in the Race Equality Charter Award where I worked as a lead on the area of professional staff recruitment and progression.

  • How does your experience of working as a librarian help you in your current role?

I think it has been a huge help to me during the past four years and made the transition easier, as it was a sector, I was familiar with and there were many friendly faces that I had either worked with or knew from conferences and courses attended over the years.

On a day to day level I think being able to share my own library experiences such as restructures, moving collections from print to electronic, implementing shelf ready, managing a DDA or coping with a flood have hopefully been a benefit to the libraries I work with. My background really helps with my conversations and building close relationships as I can emphasise and share their pain when things don’t go to plan! Thankfully, I’m also able to draw on many successful projects I was able to work on during my time in libraries, share advice and offer support when required.

  • How does the work for a publishing company compare to what you used to do as a librarian?

Overall it is very different as each day tends to be very different to the next which is one of the best aspects of my role.  I travel quite a lot so there are certain periods of time where I am never in the office and I’m sure I can regularly be seen with my travel bag trying to get a train out of Paddington or Euston. The variety and autonomy are probably the two main differences from the work I did in libraries which tended to have more of a rigid structure. I do miss my old library team but I’m thankfully still in touch with a lot of them.

  • What are the particular challenges you face in your role?

I would say that I am by nature someone who likes to fix things and find answers to a problem or a conundrum (which probably explains why I became a librarian), so if I can’t find a speedy solution, I can become frustrated. I have however learned to accept that not all fixes are quick, and patience is required, but I believe that’s a useful life lesson to use outside of work as well as in it.

  • Is there anything else you would like our readers to know (about yourself or your company)?

ProQuest is a great company to work for and if you are a librarian looking to gain some insight into “the other side” so to speak, it offers so many career opportunities. There are a large group of librarians working throughout the company in a variety of roles so the probability of running into one is highly likely!

(Edit 7 November 2019: You may also be interested in our interview with Jonathan McCrow, whom we asked the same questions. He made the move the other way: he left his job with an Academic Publisher to become a Librarian)

Digital Publishing, Learning from Libraries, Libraries

Libraries Week – “Celebrating Libraries in a Digital World”

It is Libraries Week in the UK – a “celebration of […] the role of libraries in the digital world” (CILIP’s words).  CILIP is organising and coordinating a series of events to mark the occasion.

Libraries up and down the country are organising events and activities around the celebrations, and the hashtag #librariesweek is trending on Twitter this week. The role of public libraries in a digital world is one that seems to need a lot of PR. More and more libraries are being forced to close down or reduce their services: services which go much beyond the mere lending of books.

Libraries are hubs of information, learning and social interaction on multiple levels. They certainly still provide information and entertainment via books, but they also allow access to multimedia content and games; provide events and courses; and offer opportunities for different communities to get together. More and more libraries are being turned into “community hubs” by their local authorities.

The digital equation

In 1998, the UK Government introduced the People’s Network, which recognised the need for everyone to have access to computers (and ultimately the internet). £100 million of lottery funding was invested to create an IT-based public library network, an objective fulfilled in 2002. The project equipped all public libraries with hardware and software which they could make accessible to their users. Over the past 20 years, countless users have relied on these services in a world that has become more and more digital. This has meant that the more vulnerable members of our society – the elderly, unemployed and those who cannot afford to pay for IT equipment themselves – have been able to participate in the digital world, not only by using the libraries’ equipment, but also by being given support and help on how to make most of the opportunities that present themselves online. Many libraries report that although the borrowing of books is going down, footfall is increasing; they say they can never have too many IT workstations. This is demonstrated also by the increase in use of online resources such as E-Books, subscription websites and downloadable audiobooks. Public libraries therefore occupy a big role in a digital world!

Budget cuts and lack of resources have put this system under a lot of strain recent years: the money for the People’s Network has dried up at a time when the equipment held by the libraries is in desperate need of being replaced. More modern computers are needed, as well as faster software and the resources to train staff to keep abreast of new developments. Some library authorities (e.g., Cambridgeshire) have decided the only option is to charge the users of IT equipment.  This leaves those unable to pay in an impossible position: in a world where Universal Credit can only be applied for online, those who need it most are being denied the means to apply for it. In 2017 and 2018 Lorensberg’s, the online resource booking company, commissioned a series of case studies from Gold Leaf on this precise topic. 20 years after the launch of the People’s Network, we examined the current IT situation in public libraries and the challenges of digital resource provision they face. These case studies are available as freely downloadable E-Books: “Short Stories from the People’s Network” (2017) and “More Short Stories from the People’s Network” (2018).

Libraries have come a long way and have achieved so much – especially in providing digital inclusion, and we should not stop celebrating this at the end of this week!

Learning from Libraries, Libraries, Students

Learning from Libraries – Stress-busting Steven

Universities are now much more aware of the need to support students who are feeling stressed by work pressures and exams.  Librarians, of course, tend to see more of the anguish than academics, who only encounter students occasionally during the examination period. One of the more imaginative and empathetic ways that has been developed to help alleviate stress is to introduce a therapy dog to the library, to provide “animal assisted wellness”.  In 2017 MacOdrum Library at Carleton University (Ontario, Canada) appointed Uncle Steven, a dog named after his first foster carer’s uncle, to be the stress-buster-in-chief at the university. 

Uncle Steven was a rescue dog, a Basset hound saved by the Edmonton Basset Rescue Society from a “puppy mill”.  For seven years he had been kept in a crate and used as a breeding hound.  He had never been in a house or car and did not like to be near men. 

His original foster carer was unable to continue to look after him because she already had two babies and two dogs to look after.  He was therefore adopted by John Vendel and his wife Erika Banski, both of whom are librarians. 

Uncle Steven visited the MacOdrum Library for an hour and a half twice a week during the exam season.  His services were appreciated by university staff and students alike, who played with him and talked to him and found him a very effective therapy dog.  Apparently there is a scientific reason for the remarkable success these dogs are able to achieve: humans release a de-stressing hormone when petting an animal.  10 or 15 minutes spent with Uncle Steven were therefore very effective for calming students (and staff!) and motivating them to take a positive attitude towards their work. John Vendel said that the benefits were two-way: Uncle Steven had been so neglected as a young dog that he was now enjoying the attention and lapping it up. The students who petted him unanimously agreed that he had helped to calm them and make them more cheerful.  John said that he “seemed to know” how anxious students were feeling.

Here is a picture of John with Uncle Steven.  Sadly, Uncle Steven passed away in April this year.  To mark all the good work he had done, at a ceremony in the President’s office his owners, Erika  and John received a “posthumous distinction” award.  Erika is on the left of the photo, wearing a red dress; John is standing next to the President, who is holding the certificate.

Learning from Libraries, Libraries

Learning from Librarians – The RCP Library

Gold Leaf Library Portraits, Part 1

Libraries matter, more so today than ever before. They are places for information, meeting and learning spaces, community hubs and much more. Gold Leaf frequently works with libraries across the globe, and like many of our clients, we can sometimes forget how diverse, unique and special each individual of these places are. This series is providing a focus on individual libraries: quirky and interesting, tiny and massive, ones with a long heritage and ones that are very new, those with particularly interesting, collections, architecture or stories to tell. For this, we are looking forward to interviewing many fascinating people who make these places so very special.

Library of the Royal College of Physicians

(Picture of the RCP Library Reading Room, (c) Jonathan Perugia, http://www.gaiavisual.com)

Please give us your name and describe your role.

My name is Julie Beckwith and I’m head of the Library, Archive and Museum at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), London. I have strategic responsibility for the RCP’s collections of rare and current books, archive and manuscripts, silver, portraits and medical instruments with the help of a hard-working team of 16. There are eight staff in the Library team including a library manager, a rare books librarian, an e-resources specialist, a systems librarian, reader services librarian and colleagues who provide valuable support for collections development, document delivery and office management.

Why did you choose to become / what do you enjoy about being a librarian?

I  didn’t plan to be a librarian at all. I really wanted to be a nurse and then thought about studying history but was offered a place on a library course. I have never looked back and my current role has given me the opportunity to combine my interest in healthcare, history and libraries.

I enjoy the variety of work and particularly researching, meeting people and answering queries. You never quite know what you’re going to be asked next (or by whom) so each day can be very different. One of the very first things I ever did in a Library was to fill dishes with Branston pickle ready for a lunch; I was recently involved in commissioning a tapestry by the Keiskamma Trust for the RCP’s 500th anniversary and organised a celebration featuring the Keiskamma Music Academy. Last year I worked with the Royal Academy of Music on a new music commission by composer Joseph Howard, played by brass quintet London Metropolitan Brass on the actual anniversary. So not everything has been about books and journals!

Please describe the RCP library and its aims. (How big are the library holdings, how many staff do you employ etc.)

What was then known as the College of Physicians was founded by King Henry VIII in 1518 to regulate the practice of medicine in the City of London and 7 miles around by licensing those who were qualified to practise medicine and prosecuting those who weren’t. The aim was to protect patients from unscrupulous individuals who did more harm than good. More information about the RCP’s current vision and aims are on our website (link below).

Now with more than 55,000 printed volumes, both historical and current, as well as thousands of electronic resources including ebooks and ejournals the Library was established by the first president, Thomas Linacre. Most of the original collection was lost in the Fire of London in 1666 but a bequest from the first Marquis of Dorchester came to the College in 1688 and we have continued to acquire new items by donation or purchase since then. With the Dorchester collection came a significant number of non-medical books covering topics such as religion, mathematics and astronomy, all appropriate for fellows who were required to be knowledgeable about all things, not just medicine.  We have been digitising some of these, most recently as part of a commercial partnership with publisher Wiley. We also have collections of clinical material and topics of interest to the RCP to support members and staff in their work. This is increasingly electronic. In addition, we aim to keep a copy of everything published by the RCP. A separate Medical Education Resource Centre supports the staff developing education courses and the doctors who attend these. By developing and preserving these collections we maintain more than 500 years of the organisation’s history while supporting the work of the RCP’s global membership today.

Together with the archive and museum teams we promote the collections through related services, events and exhibitions. The professionally qualified and experienced staff that make up the department work closely together, bringing a wide range of individual skills, expertise and knowledge together to create member, staff  and public benefits –  from high-profile, award-winning  exhibitions to accessible collections and a range of services.

Our aims are to

  • ensure the long-term preservation and sustainability of our collections
  • expand and develop our remote services eg e-resources, digitisation projects
  • make sure our collections are fit for the future
  • increase member and public engagement eg promotional activities
  • improve the visitor experience.

What makes the RCP library a special place to work?

A fantastic team, a variety of interesting and challenging work, opportunities to work with other organisations and to be involved in all sorts of activities – from private views of exhibitions to celebrating the RCP’s 500th anniversary and of, course, the superb collections.

What does the RCP library offer to its readers and researchers?

As well as the collections mentioned, the Library offers a range of services such as expert literature searches, inter-library loans and document delivery. We provide access to tools that help members keep up with research, we offer skills training and research space. In addition, the library team offers an enquiry service, answering enquiries not just about the library but about the work of the organisation. Apart from our e-resources we are digitising many items in our historical collections to make them more widely available. A weekly blog provides opportunities to focus on particular items in or aspects of the wider collections and we look for opportunities to show them to visitors to the building, for example in exhibitions or perhaps at one of our ‘Museum late’ events. 

Are there any special collections or projects you are particularly proud of?

It’s quite a challenge to pick out particular collections or projects as there is such a range to choose from.

What are the particular challenges you face at the RCP Library?

Libraries everywhere continue to face challenging times. They are often undervalued and the perception by some that libraries are not needed because everything can be found online is frustrating. Libraries are not just collections of printed materials – they are so much more. They have knowledgeable and skilled staff, they are spaces for social activity, interaction, culture and engagement and of course, research and learning.  Many are open to the public and are free to use.

For the RCP Library, one of the challenges is to ensure members know what we do and how we can support their work. Alongside this is demonstrating value, making sure services and collections are relevant, interesting and properly resourced and keeping up with advances in technology.

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know (about yourself or the RCP library)?

I believe strongly in the value of libraries and reading and spaces such as museums, galleries etc. to health and wellbeing.

Links

Royal College of Physicians website: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk

Library web pages: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/education-practice/library

Blog: https://history.rcplondon.ac.uk/blogs

Wiley digitisation project: http://www.wileydigitalarchives.com/downloads/WLY_RCP_ProductFactSheet_R7-Web.pdf

The RCP Library Reading Room can be found on the top floor of the RCP main building at 11 Andrews Place, London NW1 4LE. It is open to the public (research appointments are required to view historical collections) and can be visited Monday – Friday between 10am and 5pm.Please check website before visiting for occasional changes to opening times.