December 11, 2023

George F. Coe on Collaboration Between School and Public Libraries, Training for Job Seekers, Big Data, and other Impacts of the Digital Shift

George F. CoeOn October 1, Library Journal and School Library Journal will host their fifth annual virtual conference, “The Digital Shift: Libraries @ The Center.

Baker & Taylor is a Gold Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to George F. Coe, President and CEO of Baker & Taylor Inc., 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?

GC: Baker & Taylor is excited about the collaborations forming between public libraries and schools using digital content. KnowledgePoint, Baker & Taylor’s suite of solutions for schools, includes powerful tools for increasing student literacy. Having access to their school, classroom, and […] public library digital materials can maximize resources to benefit both the public libraries and schools. This approach creates a powerful link and holistic experience for young learners, helping these students stay engaged throughout their school years and into adulthood. As a result, libraries will build lifelong patrons who will grow up to become supporters of their local libraries.

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?

The rapid adoption of devices and the expansion of network availability make us all expect to be able to instantly access information and entertainment via our phones and tablets. Libraries have done an incredible job making their services and materials accessible via the Web. Online catalogs, digital collections, and mobile apps provide communities with on-the-go, anytime access to the full range of library resources and programs on the devices we carry with us. Libraries have done an incredible job of re-tooling for mobile access, putting the local library within the reach of nearly everyone.

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?  

I mentioned earlier the great collaborations that are taking shape between schools and their community libraries. And for years now, libraries have taken a very active role in providing training and resources for job seekers to the direct benefit of corporations and local business institutions. Libraries have incredible reach into their neighborhoods, and they form and tailor programs to address local needs. Institutional partners should easily recognize the value in working together with libraries on efforts that benefit these targeted groups and ultimately bring value to the community at large.

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

Baker & Taylor has identified data analytics as the next great frontier for libraries. We recently purchased collectionHQ and have made considerable investments in technology and human resources to bring the benefits of big data to our library customers. Being able to gather, collate, and assess circulation information across print and digital formats, and to provide purchase guidance based on the evidence of like-material demand at the branch level, is an enormous benefit for libraries looking to get the most out of their limited materials budgets. Data services help ensure that patrons will have access to the materials they want.

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?

2014 has been a breakthrough year for library access to digital content. All the top publishers are in now, each experimenting with access and pricing models to suit their businesses. Baker & Taylor is in the unique position of supplying books in print and digital formats. And, for the foreseeable future, libraries will be managing materials for both print and digital audiences. By providing data analytics along with the tools to effectively allocate materials budgets—balancing the mix of materials demand and access needs—Baker & Taylor provides the most complete service solution in the library market.