Last summer, ProQuest welcomed Kurt Sanford as its new CEO. He has now had 6 months leading the company and has already made his mark with a reorganization of leadership, new customer focus, and product migrations and integrations. I had a chance to visit with him during ALA Midwinter in Dallas and get an update on the corporate strategy he is implementing and his thoughts on the industry.
Sanford says he was attracted by the challenges and opportunities at ProQuest, a company he says “offers an unmatched array of products and services for libraries, researchers, and information professionals.” For his impressive credentials, see our NewsBreak from last July. His most recent positions before ProQuest were with several units of LexisNexis. While his jobs were mostly in the legal area, he has had extensive international experience and exposure to academic and corporate markets—both of which are a boon for his work at ProQuest.
He says the company now has a big commitment in Asia, with substantial businesses in Hong Kong, China, Japan, and Korea. “We will see more scholarly content coming out of China than the U.S.” He expects this to be a good part of the company’s growth strategy. “We want to be a multibillion dollar company.” Sanford also “loves that it is a private company.” He says it is “fortunate that [parent company] Cambridge Information Group (CIG) and Bob and Andy Snyder take a long term view.”
However, as Marydee Ojala pointed out in her NewsBreak, “The challenges facing ProQuest revolve around the fact that it plays primarily in the library market. This will require some adjusting to the realities of the current economic environment. Libraries are under threat.” Sanford says the company’s goal is to partner and collaborate with libraries. It’s about redirecting technology and resources. By automating and redirecting people to more value-added services, and, with the right analytics, it hopes that libraries will be able to demonstrate their value and have a fighting chance in budget wars.
Focus on the Customer
Over the years, CIG/ProQuest has acquired many companies, brands, and technologies. The main challenge Sanford faced in joining ProQuest was continuing to develop a more integrated set of assets and services.
Having the right leadership team in place was vital, he says. In November 2011, the company announced that it had reorganized into six strategic business units focused on specific customer needs and markets. Sanford says the new structure focusing on the customer was an improvement over the previous functional structure.
All DataStar customers were migrated to the new ProQuest Dialog search service at the end of December 2011. The company installed an intercept survey tool throughout its platform in November to have customers give feedback and get responses in real time. The ProQuest Dialog transition is ongoing and the remaining customer base will migrate in the 2nd half of 2012. The completion of the first phase of the roll-out of the new ProQuest research environment was capped with the announcement of a mobile interface that will enable users to discover, manage and share ProQuest’s content from smartphones and tablets. It’s one of a variety of mobile initiatives across the enterprise. In fact, ebrary also announced its new mobile app that enables users to work with ebooks and content uploaded by the library to the ebrary platform wherever they’re working.
Serials Solutions Announces Intota
For the past 3 years, the Summon service from ProQuest’s Serials Solutions business unit has innovated in the discovery market and delivered solutions to the library’s goal of being simple and intuitive for users to access. Sanford says that market penetration of ARLs is high, with 30% of these libraries embracing Summon.
Serials Solutions is now developing a new, web-scale management solution. It is a single, centrally provisioned solution that supports the entire resource lifecycle including selection, acquisition, cataloging, discovery, and fulfillment regardless of resource type. It promises to maximize the advantages of digital media while protecting and exposing print and other formats in a local collection. Serials Solutions hosted a session at midwinter to update librarians on the highly anticipated web-scale management product, now called Intota.
Jane Burke, senior vice president ProQuest, says, “The problem with the ILS [integrated library system], of course, is that it is no longer integrated. As library collections have become predominately digital, these systems only do part of the job. Conceived in the 1980s, the ILS was built to manage a print collection; it was not designed to meet the realities of today’s libraries.”
In preparation, Serials Solutions conducted 60 in-person interviews and ran three focus groups. It found that libraries are trying to manage today’s collections with yesterday’s technologies. Intota will roll out in three phases. The company is currently working to build a greatly expanded Knowledgebase (Serials Solutions KnowledgeWorks). Phase 1—Resource Management—will be offered in 2012. In 2013 it will build out the rest of the capabilities so that by the end of 2013 libraries should be able to “unplug their ILS.”
Burke says the four advantages of Intota are the following:
- Shared data model
- Inherent interoperability
- Lower total cost of ownership
- Built and delivered by Serials Solutions
Sanford was also pleased that the company announced some exciting content developments. In April, ProQuest will release the first module of the archives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Previously preserved on microfilm, it will be fully searchable and accessible electronically and available as part of ProQuest History Vault. Another venerable organization, the Christian Science Monitor extended its long-standing agreement for ProQuest access through 2013. Sanford says that both organizations’ content add to the diversity of perspectives that ProQuest provides to researchers.
ProQuest held a gala event during midwinter to celebrate the recent launch of the Vogue Archive. ProQuest is hosting the archive for academic institutions and libraries. Ivan Shaw, Vogue’s director of photography since 1999, was on hand to show slides of some of the most famous covers. What a visually stunning display it was. Now you can explore more than a century of women’s clothing styles, beauty trends, and social history online. The Vogue Archive (1892-present) provides more than 400,000 pages of image-rich material available online for the first time. It’s updated every month to include the latest U.S. issue of Vogue—with no embargo. The Vogue Archive includes in-depth indexing to enable researchers to search for images by designer, brand, garment type, material, and other search fields.
Just announced: The Vogue Archive will be available for free trial on ProQuest’s websites from Feb. 2 through Feb. 16, 2012.