February 7, 2023

Frank Menchaca on the Power of Networks, Analyzing Community Needs, Surfacing Outcomes, and other Impacts of the Digital Shift

Frank MenchacaOn October 1, Library Journal and School Library Journal will host their fifth annual virtual conference, “The Digital Shift: Libraries @ The Center.” Gale Cengage Learning is a Gold Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to Frank Menchaca, Senior Vice President, Global Product Management, Gale, National Geographic Learning and Professional, to participate in this series of interviews addressing libraries’ central role in the transformation of our culture from analog experiences to digital experiences.

LJ: How do you see the digital shift enabling collaborations and how are these new kinds of partnerships changing the library user experience?

FM: The digital shift has allowed us to see the power of networks. It has shown libraries that they needn’t work alone to fulfill their missions and that that partnerships—with each other and with companies like Gale—can advance their causes. Not everything needs to be homegrown. We can leverage collectives of like-minded people and organizations to achieve our goals. Many of the recent Library of the Year winners have all displayed innovative partnerships with local organizations.

Now that the digital shift and mobile and tablet use are converging to create an expectation of accessing library materials everywhere, how is the library world rising to that challenge, how must we modify user experience to cross screens successfully, and how do we best serve those still struggling with the digital divide?

In some ways, the digital shift has elevated the importance of the library as more community members need help navigating this transition—how do they access the internet? How do they download a book, etc.? However, it has also enabled people to access information without stepping foot in the library, forcing libraries to demonstrate the value they bring to the equation and find new ways to engage users. For libraries to be successful, they need to understand their community’s needs and who their users are. From there, they can build the services, collections, and spaces that help their community thrive. Our Analytics On Demand resource, an innovative data analysis tool to help libraries discover key insights about their community, is one way we’re helping libraries do that.

How do libraries best support key community needs such as workforce development, enabling better healthcare and education outcomes, and how can they work with corporate or institutional partners to advocate for these roles more effectively?

A lot of this answer depends on finding the right partner. At Gale, we focus on partnering directly with libraries to help them meet the real world challenges they face. We’re not just building reference products, we’re developing programs such as Gale Courses, which provides instructor-led online adult education, and Career Online High School, which provides online accredited high school education, to help libraries remain essential. We’re arming libraries with the facts through white papers and other materials to show stakeholders the real monetary value education and workforce development can bring to a local economy.

How are you and your library partners assessing the impact of the content they provide on their patrons?

While the number of checkouts and library visits are good ways to measure the reach of the library, demonstrating the impact the library makes is a different story that can’t be communicated solely with these statistics. What really shows impact is whether a customer’s use of resources led to a better outcome—a better grade on test, a high school diploma or college degree, a job, or a promotion? At Gale we’re partnering directly with libraries to help surface these stories. We’re also empowering libraries with Analytics On Demand to better inform strategic planning, collection development, programming and to measure the impact of day-to-day decision making. Analytics On Demand is the industry’s first affordable and accessible application for using data to make decisions and measure results.

When this event began, whether ebooks even had a future in libraries was far from clear. Now that all of the Big 5 offer ebooks to public libraries, what is the next step? Will acquisition models diversify for public libraries as they have in the academic market? How will rising ebook prices in academia change collection development? How will the school market evolve?

As the ebook market has changed so has the nature of ebook acquisition. We’ve explored a number of models with customers over the years. Recently, we announced our Usage-Driven Acquisition (UDA) model for all types of libraries. Through this model, customers make an upfront deposit and get complete access to Gale e-titles for six months. After six months, ebooks with the greatest usage are added permanently to the library’s GVRL collection and deducted from their deposit. (Our ebooks also have unlimited, simultaneous use). This model allows libraries to purchase ebooks based on actual usage, and helps librarians feel comfortable they’re making smart purchasing decisions while meeting the direct needs of their users