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The News of 2015: The Year in Review
Posted On January 5, 2016
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Happy new year! As we ring in 2016 and look forward to what is sure to be another eventful year for libraries, information professionals, and information services, it’s time to reflect on the major industry happenings in 2015. Here’s an overview of the newsworthy trends, events, and topics NewsBreaks covered in the past year.

The full list of NewsBreaks is searchable by keyword. For predictions about the year ahead, check out “What Trends May Come in 2016.”

Mergers and Acquisitions

NewsBreaks covered two major industry shake-ups in 2015: the creation of Springer Nature and the acquisition of Ex Libris Group. In January, Marydee Ojala shared in “Springer and Macmillan Poised to Merge” that the majority of Macmillan Science and Education (including Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, and Macmillan Education) would merge with all of Springer Science+Business Media (including BioMed Central, SpringerOpen, Adis, and Apress). She explained the history of the two companies and speculated, with input from colleagues, how the merger would affect each. A year into the merger, the combined company has a new name (Springer Nature), but announcements about it have been few and far between.

Ojala also covered the October acquisition of Ex Libris Group by ProQuest (“ProQuest to Acquire Ex Libris Group”). She spoke with ProQuest CEO Kurt Sanford about the surprise announcement, who said he’d been eyeing the Ex Libris Group for several years. Sanford noted that ProQuest does not intend to consolidate the companies’ products; instead, they will pool their knowledgebases. “Increasing the knowledgebase will benefit customers of both Primo and Summon without forcing them to switch allegiances,” Ojala wrote.

Digital Media News

Another major acquisition in 2015 affects the worldwide ebook market. In March, Rakuten, Inc. (owner of ebook vendor Kobo) acquired OverDrive Holdings, Inc., which operates the OverDrive ebook-lending platform. Nancy K. Herther’s “Rakuten and OverDrive: Building a Major Global Ebook Platform” explored how OverDrive could help Rakuten become a global ebook distributor (and expand into the North American market) as one of its several ecommerce ventures, which include the messaging app Viber and the Rakuten Essential “look book.”

It’s well-known that libraries are lending more than ebooks—digital magazines and streaming videos are becoming commonplace offerings. Herther set out to discover which companies were making the most strides in these areas in “Contenders for the Title ‘The Netflix of Magazines’ Emerge” and “Streaming Video Sizzles: A Look at the Current Marketplace.”

Herther discovered that digital magazines were originally slow to gain a foothold in the mobile space, but now companies are beginning to create mobile-friendly versions. She cited Europe-based Readly and Blendle, as well as Magzter, Next Issue Media, and Zinio, as examples of companies that are innovating in this space.

“While the consumer marketplace continues to skyrocket, the educational and library markets are finding the move to streaming video more problematic,” Herther wrote. She listed recent consumer developments—such as Alibaba Group’s TBO (Tmall Box Office) and Amazon Prime’s decision to allow video downloads—that make it easy for the general viewer to access content. For educational institutions and libraries, she tracked down the vendors that are facilitating access, including YouTube #Education, Kanopy, and Alexander Street Press.

The Game-Based Learning Trend

Woody Evans had the education beat this year, covering simulations and apps that encourage learning through play. In May, Evans looked at Duolingo’s new language-learning courses and explored whether its gamified approach is effective in “tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh'a'? Duolingo Adds New Languages (Including Klingon).”

In June’s “Education + Simulation + Critical Thinking = Government Funding,” Evans reported on grants that the U.S. Department of Education and IES (Institute of Education Sciences) awarded to 21 educational startups such as Strange Loop Games and Schell Games—many of which use modeling and simulation to teach students about various topics. Strange Loop Games’ Eco and Schell Games’ Happy Atoms exemplify “two aspects of this apparent trend of government funding: simulation on the one hand, and augmented reality on the other,” he wrote. “[W]e seem to have started down a path of blending virtual reality and the physical world to enhance learning.”

Evans checked back in with Strange Loop Games’ Eco in December to see how the project was going (“Game Simulations Enter the Real World of Education”). “Since receiving the grant, Strange Loop Games has steadily moved ahead with Eco. Its development blog tracks the progress of the many details necessary to create a shared virtual economy and ecosystem,” he wrote. “Eco seems to be great for the students too. Early experiences in classrooms … show students taking seriously the gravity of finite resources on a shared world and using the game to develop skills related to 3D visualization, mathematics, economics, social sciences, citizenship, and critical thinking.”

Government Decisions

When Librarian of Congress James Hadley Billington announced his upcoming retirement in June, Corilee Christou reported on the events leading up to this leadership change, including a March 2015 U.S. Government Accountability Office report condemning the Library of Congress’ (LC) IT program and a February U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary hearing about the position of the U.S. Copyright Office in the LC (“Finding a Librarian of Congress for the Digital Age”). Christou then set out the general qualifications that the next librarian should have. (On Oct. 1, 2015, David S. Mao became the acting Librarian of Congress.)

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Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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