Maura and Jaron, thank you for agreeing to this interview. First of all, could you tell us a little about your roles?
We’re Account Managers working in the College and Community College Market sales team. Our customers focus mostly on awarding undergraduate degrees with smaller numbers of Masters degrees awarded. I’ve been with the team for 2 years and look after the Midwestern states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, and Minnesota.
My areas are Southwestern US, including states such as California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, and Western Canada. The College market team is still growing and since Springer began working with these institutions, we’ve doubled in size.
What are the key differences between the customers you serve and the research-intensive institutions that might be thought of as “typical” Springer customers?
Springer’s customer base traditionally includes institutions with a high level of research activity that award greater numbers of Master’s and Doctorate degrees, but they also award undergraduate degrees too. In that regard, I would say that Springer’s typical customer includes our market too. The key difference is that our institutions focus predominantly on undergraduate degrees, so they have different information needs.
The classification is based on the Carnegie Basic Classification Methodology which looks at the degree output of the institution. Master’s Small, Master’s Medium institutions and Baccalaureate colleges generally award around 50 master's degrees and approximately 20 doctoral degrees per year. As Maura mentions, these institutions cater mostly for undergraduates so they have different information needs. Libraries at research institutions focus on providing access to the latest information so that when grants come in, the information is on hand to do the research. These libraries also (usually) have several people working together to select the right content for their users.
For the institutions we work with, there is often only one or two library staff doing the content selection, cataloging, referencing etc. The majority of their users need more foundation-based information although they still need to cater for the needs of faculty and researchers too. Springer provides these institutions with a service that covers all of their curriculum needs without the library having to choose content on a title by title basis.
How do you approach selling content to your market? Is content packaged differently to meet the needs of smaller schools?
We began our approach to this sector by reviewing our entire collection and asking ourselves – would Springer books be relevant for undergraduate study? And if so, which titles? Using CHOICE review service, we looked at the titles most commonly used by undergraduate libraries and mapped those against our collection. As a result, we identified more than 300 books a year that were included on undergraduate reading lists. At present, schools are sold access to all of Springer’s books for the price of just those 300 titles so it’s a really exceptional value for the libraries and the school’s community.
At first schools questioned why they would want access to our entire collection. However, in a usage study we carried out across 112 schools, we found that users were accessing approximately 45% of all the content. Not only were these using the books that we believed were full-text relevant for the college market, but they were finding relevant, foundational chapters in major reference works, graduate monographs and book series. Our eBooks are “journalized” (indexed by chapter) on our platform, which lends itself well to the undergraduate research experience.
So is it just Springer’s book collection that is sold to institutions or can they access Springer journals too?
We do sell both types of content but we tend to focus on Springer books as they are more geared towards undergraduate study. It really comes down to relevancy; our customers purchase the journals that best support their curriculum.
Can you tell us about your most interesting sale? What did it involve?
I’m really excited about the work we’re doing to support Community Colleges. They are overwhelmed by the amount of content that Springer provides but they also have a wide and diverse user group. Additionally, a lot of their users are older students returning to study so they are not as digitally-savvy which can cause issues with finding the right text etc. So, we met with our editorial teams and the consortia we work with to determine how we could approach the market and which books from our 2012 list would be relevant. We are now beginning to explore various content solutions that will speak to the specific needs of the Community College market.
I agree with Jaron in that I think community colleges are a surprising sector for us. Springer has created several state-wide site licenses which were developed for larger schools but, due to consortia rules, gave access to all schools in the state. From usage analysis of these licenses, we were surprised to learn just how many of the books the Community Colleges were using!
We made an interesting discovery too from an event that we hosted at the recent Charleston conference where we invited 3 of our librarian customers to speak. One talked about their institution’s purchase of Springer eBooks and how it included titles to support studies in Geographical Information Systems (GIS). At the time of purchase, she was unaware that her institution was intending to introduce a GIS course. It came as a pleasant surprise when they were discussing the new course to discover they already had 100 titles on the subject from Springer, which really helped with planning the curriculum.
I read a report published in Inside Higher Ed that a survey conducted among librarians found that undergraduate colleges and community colleges devote approximately 7% of their materials budget to eBooks but they expect to devote 18% five years from now. Its exciting times for this market and we’re looking forward to supporting them in any way we can!