Meeting the changing needs of our customers

From Bob Howard, Executive Editor Social Sciences

SAGE recently held its annual Winter meeting of the Higher Education Group (HEG), which consists of the publishing divisions (Editorial, Production, Publishing Technologies, Marketing, Sales, Contracts and Circulation) in the Thousand Oaks, CA office. 

Employees were treated to stellar presentations by leading scholars and librarians on two related themes: The Changing College Campus and The Changing University Library. 

Renowned sleep researcher, Dr. Jim Maas, Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University, and author of Power Sleep (, energized the audience with a lively presentation showing how he uses technology in his class room.  Dr. Maas provided highlights of his research findings (and scared us all into going to bed earlier) while he demonstrated how he uses wireless microphones, automatic instantaneous audience data collection, and PowerPoint presentations with embedded video as teaching tools in his Psychology 101 course, which he teaches to 1,700 students.  Dr. Maas concluded with a video recapping how Cornell now streams his lectures live to their medical school in Doha, Qatar, and how technology provides students there with a truly interactive learning experience.

Dr. Ashish Vaidya, Dean of the Faculty at California State University Channel Islands, and an economist by training spoke about the forces driving change in higher education in his presentation on how technology and new media affect the college campus.  Dr. Vaidya stressed that students today want real outcomes with their education, not just perceived value, but tensions on university budgets make this challenging.  He noted that students are driving the rapid growth in enrollment in online education, yet many faculty on traditional campuses feel that online courses are difficult to develop and teach.  Dr. Vaidya’s vision of the future includes strong partnerships across existing campuses to ensure that students have access to the courses they want from professors best equipped to teach those courses.

James Wiser, Assistant Director at SCELC (Statewide California Electronic Library Consortia) gave an overview of the current and future state of the library.  He said that “anxiety” may be the one word that best describes the current state of the library market.  Librarians are anxious over budgets and job retention.  There are also worries about  competition from Google, iTunes and other electronic search engines on the content delivery side.  Many librarians lament their loss of content control in the internet age.  Dr. Wiser noted that librarians are spending less on print, particularly on print books, and that publishing in serials has supplanted publishing monographs as a  priority for professors seeking tenure today.  This is good news for journals, but spells trouble for university presses and monograph book publishers.  Dr. Wiser ended by recommending that we remember that we are in the scholarly communication business and cannot be tied to today’s mediums but must be able to adapt with technology.

Dr. Sue Polanka, Head of Reference and Instruction at Wright State University Libraries and notable blogger (see No Shelf Required) spoke about her experiences moving from print to online reference resources.  Since 2005, Wright State has decreased its print reference titles by 50%, increased its electronic reference resources significantly, and replaced shelf space with computer stations and group work areas.  She noted that the challenges facing today’s reference librarian are very similar to those facing serials librarians: content discoverability, multiple platform searches, print versus electronic formats, access on mobile devices, and budget cuts versus price increases. 

Overall it was an excellent opportunity to connect with some of our key customers.

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