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ProQuest Unifies its Business, Drops Serials Solutions Brand

Smart Libraries Newsletter [March 2014]

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Copyright (c) 2014 ALA TechSource

Abstract: In a move that reflects a strategy of a more unified corporation structure with more cooperation among its products and services, ProQuest has officially discontinued the Serials Solutions brand and made other organizational changes in recent months.


In a move that reflects a strategy of a more unified corporation structure with more cooperation among its products and services, ProQuest has officially discontinued the Serials Solutions brand and made other organizational changes in recent months.

The executive structure has been reshaped in the past year. Executives were appointed at to oversee three strategic areas.

  • Kevin Sayar serves as Senior Vice President and General Manager of ProQuest Workflow Solutions. Sayar joined the company following the June 2011 acquisition of ebrary, which he co-founded with Christopher Warnock.
  • Rafael Sidi joined ProQuest as General Manager, ProQuest Information Systems in June 2013. Sidi was previously with Elsevier in a variety of management roles.
  • Tim Wahlberg serves as Senior Vice President and General Manager for ProQuest Dialog. Wahlberg joined ProQuest in 2011, coming from Thomson Reuters. In June 2013 Pro- Quest announced a major overhaul of this business, both organizationally and in its content delivery platform.
  • Simon Beale serves as Senior Vice President and General Manager for ProQuest U.S. Government, Public Library and Schools. Beale joined the company in June 2002 and has held a number of senior leadership roles.

Serials Solutions, a major vendor in the management of electronic resources in libraries and frequently covered by Smart Libraries Newsletter, created the Summon discovery service and is in the process of developing Intota, a new library services platform. The products and services of Serials Solutions now fall under the responsibility of Sayar and ProQuest Workflow Solutions.

Also, John Law was promoted to the new position of VP, Enterprise Product Strategy for ProQuest in November 2013. Previously, he was Vice President for Product Management and Discovery Services. Consistent with the company's new emphasis on integrating its products, Law will focus on technologies and initiatives with synergies across its product lines. Law conceived the Summon discovery service based on research conducted investigating end-user behaviors related to the use of information products.

Executive Mandate

Kurt Sanford was named Chief Executive Office of ProQuest effective July 2011, replacing Marty Kahn who served as the company's CEO since 2007. Cambridge Information Group (CIG), during its initial stage of ownership under Kahn, operated Pro- Quest to maintain the relative separation of their acquired brands, with distinct sales and marketing, product development strategies, and executive management structures. Each of the separate companies coordinated its activities to be consistent and coherent within ProQuest, but operated with some independence. With the appointment of Sanford, ProQuest has gradually moved toward integration.

Although Sanford has been at the reins of the company for more than two years, such a transformation in a large and complex company can take time to define and execute. The executive appointments made through 2013 operationalize this new strategy. A single unified sales force, for example, will market all the company's products to libraries rather than the previous arrangement where each business unit worked with libraries independently. Support for Serials Solutions products will shift into the centralized ProQuest processes this year. The structure encourages greater coordination of technology development within ProQuest. While several different strategic technology platforms will continue to be supported, common agile methodologies and other processes will be employed throughout the company to streamline software development.

The rather complex matrix of ProQuest's company and product names will simplify. Some if this new branding is already apparent in products such as Summon, Intota, Intota Assessment, and Flow, which all now carry the ProQuest brand.

ProQuest Content

The flagship ProQuest brand includes dozens of databases in subject areas spanning the social sciences, science and technology, medicine, business, research, and many aggregations of news sources. ProQuest markets its databases primarily to colleges and universities, but it also has packages for K-12. Pro- Quest has a long heritage in the microfilm arena, and continues to offer collections of newspapers, dissertations, primary works, and other materials on this media. Other content-oriented brands include CSA, Chadwyck-Healey, and SIRS.

ProQuest became involved in the e-book arena initially with the 2011 acquisition of ebrary. Academic Complete, one of the ebrary core collections, recently added an additional 20,000 titles bringing its total to more than 100,000. In 2013, ProQuest expanded it e-book offerings with the acquisition of eBook Library. The company is currently working on a consolidated platform under the leadership of Kari Paulson, ProQuest Vice President and General Manager, Ebooks.

Other ProQuest businesses include Bowker, Dialog, and RefWorks-COS. Bowker's products include Books in Print, Resources for College Libraries, Syndetic Solutions. Bowker holds partial ownership of LibraryThing for Libraries. Bowker serves as the official US agency for International Standard Book Number (ISBN), one of its many identifier services.

ProQuest Technology

Many of ProQuest's technology products have been developed through Serials Solutions, though it also maintains large-scale technical infrastructure for information delivery for its ProQuest and Lexis content services.

The 360 product suite is all based on the KnowledgeWorks knowledge base of e-resource holdings. The 360 Core features basic management and access tools: an A-Z listing service for a library's e-journal titles; 360 Link, an OpenURL based link resolver; and 360 Resource Manager, a full-featured electronic resource management service. Related products include the 360 MARC Updates, providing bibliographic records for importing into a local integrated library system.

AquaBrowser came to the ProQuest family through R.R. Bowker's acquisition of Amsterdam-based Medialab Solutions in June 2007. Responsibility for AquaBrowser was transferred to Serials Solutions in March 2008. In addition to the interest in AquaBrowser among public libraries, under Serials Solutions major academic libraries such as Oklahoma State University, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago also adopted it. AquaBrowser continues to be developed and supported by ProQuest. Although the product has seen erosion of use in the United States, interest remains strong in The Netherlands and surrounding countries.

Summon was launched by Serials Solutions in January 2009, positioned as the first Web-scale index-based discovery service. The development of Summon has been documented in previous issues of Smart Libraries Newsletter, including the recent release of Summon 2.0 (March 2013).

Intota is the company's upcoming library services platform. Serials Solutions announced its strategy to develop a new-generation library services platform in June 2011. ProQuest asserts its commitment to complete the development of Intota, with availability for libraries expected in 2015.

A related product, Intota Assessment, was released in November 2013. This product, based on the same technology foundation planned for Intota, provides an array of analytics and collection assessment tools to assist libraries in collection development selections.

Technology and Content Synergies

The resource management solutions that emerged from Serials Solutions have been designed from their inception to leverage knowledge base and other content components. The company's link resolvers and electronic management tools gain much of their capabilities through their reliance on the quality and currency of the KnowledgeWorks knowledge base. Intota Assessment makes use of bibliographic and quantities date from products such as Books in Print and Ulrich's. Intota will rely on a new and expanded knowledge base built from a variety of ProQuest content assets and other collections of metadata made available through major libraries.

Summon, as an index-based discovery service, depends on content providers contributing metadata and full-text. Summon indexes content from an extensive range of publishers. Only a subset of that material comes from ProQuest products. Summon, created by Serials Solutions when it operated as a separate organization, has been characterized from its inception as a neutral discovery service. ProQuest asserts that content neutrality will continue in Summon even with Serials Solutions no longer in the picture. This position will naturally be subject to scrutiny as libraries evaluate the performance of Summon.

Partnerships with Competing Discovery Services

The non-participation of some database providers has been a critical issue in the discovery services arena. While there continue to be many publishers, especially those that produce A&I resources, that continue not to cooperate with discovery services, ProQuest's agreements with Ex Libris and OCLC represent progress toward universal participation.

Ex Libris

At the recent Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association, ProQuest announced a partnership with Ex Libris to provide content from its databases for indexing in Primo Central. The agreement also includes the ebrary and EBL-Ebook Library collections.

The partnership also includes joint development to enable libraries using Ex Libris Alma library services platform or its Aleph and Voyager integrated library systems to use Summon as a discovery option instead of Primo Central. Ex Libris will also work to develop demand driven acquisition processes for ProQuest EBL and ebrary e-book collections in Alma.

OCLC

ProQuest has formed a similar agreement with OCLC for providing OCLC with metadata and full text for indexing in WorldCat Discovery Services. The agreement involves OCLC indexing more than 320 million records from 88 collections in ProQuest Central. These records will be accessible only to libraries that subscribe to both WorldCat Discovery Service and ProQuest Direct. Through a November 2013 agreement, OCLC provides a service to provide cataloging and holdings data for ebrary and EBL—Ebook Library collections, both in WorldCat and for import into local library catalogs.

Corporate Background, Ownership and Investment

ProQuest has a complex corporate history. Relevant threads of succession include that of ProQuest and its antecedent companies prior to its acquisition by CIG, other CIG investments, and Serials Solutions activity.

Cambridge Information Group

Cambridge Information Group is a privately held company founded by Robert N. Snyder in 1971. Today the company remains under the ownership of the Snyder family. Robert. N. Snyder led the company as its CEO through 2000, when James McGinity was appointed to that role. In December 2005 Andrew M. (Andy) Snyder was named as Chief Executive Officer for Cambridge Information Group and McGinty shifted to Vice Chairman of the company's Board of Directors. Andy Snyder previously worked at Goldman Sachs. Robert N. Snyder continues as the CIG Chairman of the Board. In recent news, McGinty has announced his retirement from the CIG board effective June 30, 2014.

A large investment firm, Cambridge Information Group holds portfolio companies diverse industries. In addition to its library-oriented companies, CIG also owns Sotheby's Institute of Art, the Back to Rock school of music, and is a major investor in Navtech, which develops products aircraft navigation products. CIG's initial portfolio company was Cambridge Scientific Abstracts. Its investments expanded to include many other library-oriented companies. In 2001 CIG purchased R.R. Bowker from Reed Elsevier. Backed by CIG, Bowker subsequently acquired other companies including Syndetic Solutions and Medialab Solutions and its AquaBrowser Library discovery interface, both in 2007. CSA also expanded, including the acquisition of Community of Science in 2005. As noted in the February 2014 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter, CIG supported the establishment of RefWorks in May 2001.

Significantly expanding its stake in library information and technology, CIG acquired ProQuest in partnership with private equity firm ABRY as a minority investor. When the deal closed in February 2007, ProQuest was merged with CIG's CSA subsidiary to form ProQuest-CSA, subsequently named ProQuest in May 2007. Marty Kahn was appointed Chief Executive officer.

Following the acquisition of ProQuest, many of CIG library-related assets were organized under ProQuest, including Bowker and its subsidiaries. Under CIG, ProQuest made a number of strategic acquisitions, including purchasing Dialog from Thomson Reuters in July 2008.

ProQuest's ownership arrangement between CIG and ABRY remained in place through November 2013. At that time ABRY divested its stake in the company with Goldman Sachs stepping in as a new minority investor. Details have not been made public regarding the value of the Goldman Sachs investment or the percentage of ownership relative to majority owner CIG.

ProQuest

Prior to its acquisition by CIG, ProQuest traced its corporate history back to a company formed by Eugene B. Power in 1938 called University Microfilm International based in Ann Arbor, MI. Based on the experience gained with its original product of doctoral dissertations, the company expanded into abstracts of scholarly articles and other types of content. Ownership of the University Microfilm International changed hands in 1962, when it was acquired by Xerox, and again in 1985, when Bell & Howell purchased the company. Bell & Howell Information and Learning expanded through a series of strategic acquisitions and through the creation of new product lines.

The company launched its flagship ProQuest series of products in 1995, originally distributed on CD-ROM, and in 1997, via the Internet though ProQuest Direct. The success of the brand led to the use its name when Bell & Howell Information and Learning and Bell & Howell Publishing Services merged in 2001, forming the ProQuest Company.

In 1999 Bell & Howell acquired Chadwyck-Healey in a deal values at £30 million. Other acquisitions made in this period included R.R. Bowker from Reed Elsevier and the Canadian company Macromedia in 2002, which published a variety of products on CD-ROM and print. In June 2003 ProQuest acquired SIRS Publishing, which had developed a variety of information products oriented primarily to K-12 school libraries, from Elliot Goldstein and Eleanor Goldstein. The Goldsteins also owned Mandarin Library Automation, which was not part of the acquisition. In January 2005 ProQuest acquired Voyager Expanded Learning, which offered a variety of programs to improve reading aimed at the K-12 school market.

In March 2004 ProQuest acquired Serials Solutions from its founders.

By December 2006, ProQuest Company, the publicly traded parent of ProQuest Information and Learning, had encountered financial difficulties, including legal problems following from misstatements of earnings in its mandatory filings with the SEC. ProQuest Company divested several assets, including Pro- Quest Information and Learning, which was acquired by CIG in 2007. The remnant of the company left after the divestitures was renamed to Voyager Learning Company, now known as Voyager Sopris Learning, owned by Cambium Learning Group, a publicly traded company based in Dallas, TX.

Serials Solutions

Serials Solutions, a major force primarily in academic libraries, was founded in May 2000 by Peter McCracken, Mike McCracken, Steve McCracken, and Chris Pierard. Serials Solutions was acquired by ProQuest Information and Learning in March 2004. In June 2005 Jane Burke was named Vice President of ProQuest and General Manager of Serials Solutions. Burke is a veteran of the library automation industry having held executive positions in CLSI, NOTIS Systems, Ameritech Library Services, and Endeavor Information Systems. Burke continues her involvement at ProQuest as a Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and is heavily involved in the roll-out of Intota.

The products of Serials Solutions have been chronicled in previous issues of Smart Libraries Newsletter:

  • March 2013: Serials Solutions announces Intota Assessment
  • August 2011: Serials Solutions to build Web-scale management solution
  • March 2009: Summon: a new search service from Serials Solutions
  • May 2008: Serials Solutions' product line now includes AquaBrowser
  • April 2008: WebFeat acquired by ProQuest and merged with Serials Solutions
  • April 2007: R.R. Bowker acquires Medialab Solutions

Serials Solutions announced in December 2013 that the support of its products would be shifted in early 2014 to the ProQuest Product Support Center, taking advantage of the infrastructure in place for the larger company for the management of support cases, documentation, and other customer service features.

With the recent changes describe above, Serials Solutions no longer exists as a business entity or brand, but the products it created continue to be developed and supported by ProQuest.

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Publication Year:2014
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 34 Number 03
Issue:March 2014
Page(s):2-6
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Company: ProQuest
ISSN:1541-8820
Record Number:19031
Last Update:2014-12-21 13:02:41
Date Created:2014-03-19 08:39:37