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February 15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more What's New with. . . Gale Digital Collections
Gale, part of Cengage Learning, is a well-known publisher with a long and respected history of serving libraries and researchers. Ray Abruzzi, director, strategic planning, gives us some insight into the inner workings of the Gale Digital Collections program.
“Gale has come a long way since its first reference publication, in 1954,” notes Abruzzi. “Mergers and acquisitions throughout the years have brought us leading information technology, periodical databases, and a worldwide source of rare primary documents. The arrival of the Internet age has helped us to combine different content types into one seamless experience. Now the challenge is to make all of our products work more efficiently and map directly to user needs, outcomes, and workflows.” One of Gale’s most recent digital projects is the integrated research environments under its new Artemis line (including Artemis: Primary Sources and Artemis: Literary Sources), which is poised to be the next big leap in terms of content and software integration. “The Artemis products are loaded with tools and services that would have been unimaginable back when we got started, nearly sixty years ago,” Abruzzi says.
Although most customers might know Gale Digital Collections as collections of manuscripts, photography, books, journals, and newspapers, the company is also beginning to explore the role of three-dimensional objects in the research experience. “How we publish that content and the software we develop is also a large part of creating an engaging customer experience and value for the researcher,” Abruzzi says. “Utilizing the agile software development practice, which calls for a collaborative approach to product development and incorporates a constant loop of user testing and feedback, our development team is able to create sophisticated, tool-rich research platforms that fit into the workflows of our customers and aid in new research discoveries.”
Support Is Key
“One thing that people may not know about Gale is the way in which we support our partner institutions—the 400 or so libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions we work with,” notes Abruzzi. “When we initiate these partnerships, Gale first seeks to understand our partner’s priorities through a simple set of questions: What are their goals as an institution? How do they hope to benefit from partnering with Gale? What are the needs of that institution that are not currently being met through existing avenues? Sometimes the need is for a revenue stream via a royalty agreement. Sometimes an institution wants to raise the profile of its archive, or collections within that archive. Other times the needs are very specific and tied directly to the goals of the institution. Gale structures our partnerships so that we meet as many of those needs as possible.”
In the same way in which Gale wants to add value for users, Gale also wants to make sure that partners benefit. One of the major needs Gale has uncovered involves the lack of support for conservation. Too often, money for conservation is hard to come by, so the company has worked with a number of its partners to properly resource this work, funding several positions for trained conservators at major institutions. “This work has saved many collections, restored them to good condition, and made them safe for future use,” Abruzzi notes proudly. “Knowing that we are directly funding the conservation and preservation of our shared history, leaving the primary sources we digitize in better shape than we found them, and creating a digital analog that likely further extends their longevity is something I personally take pride in, and I hope that our customers are aware of Gale’s work in this area.”
What’s Coming in 2014
On the technology side, Gale is known for constant development and improvement, which Abruzzi tells us means that “the goal for our technology development staff is to understand user needs—which often change—to build tools that solve problems and to learn as we go. We are actively pursuing ways to make archival audio and video footage searchable through transcription and linking. We’re also actively engaged in creating tools that support data-mining and textual analysis. Through our Smithsonian partnership, we’re looking at 3-D imaging technologies and working on a way to create a kind of ‘stepping through the exhibit glass’ presentation. The goal is to create an experience where researchers and students can examine the ins and outs of different kinds of objects in ways that tie to their needs.” He says further, “On the content side, we’re looking at developing even more partnerships, particularly with institutions outside of North America, to support the expressed and growing need for non-Western sources and to support research with a broader array of materials.”
Excitement on the Horizon
When asked what he’s most excited about for the future, Abruzzi tells us, “I’d need to divide my excitement into two parts—one relating to content, and the other relating to the technology Gale has been developing, which brings that content to life for students and researchers. On the content side, our recent partnership with the Smithsonian Institution is one of the most interesting and ambitious opportunities I’ve ever worked on. Gale and the Smithsonian will be working together over the next several years to develop an entire program of digital collections, which may draw on any number of the many Smithsonian museums, libraries, archives, research centers, and institutional partners. Although many people think of the Smithsonian in the context of a museum, its archives and libraries are simply vast. Discovering exactly what areas of content to focus on in building out a program for learning and research is one of my current responsibilities, and I am working with researchers, students, and librarians from the academic world as well as Smithsonian curators, librarians, research fellows, and directors to determine which institutions and collections to start with.”
This ties in directly to his enthusiasm about Gale’s developing technologies and features. “Led by our new Artemis: Primary Sources platform, which integrates many of our existing digital collections into one environment, Gale has developed a set of features and tools that put content directly in learning and research paths, and align with the outcomes sought by students and educators alike. Knowing that a robust and continually expanding platform and tool kit that will best articulate the Smithsonian content is available means that users will be getting the best of both worlds—premium content on a platform that makes it accessible and adds value.”
For more information on Gale Digital Collections, see the company website.
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