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Rialto Development Series: Interview with Gavin Phillips from Imperial College London
ProQuest Rialto is a groundbreaking solution to the challenges of selection and acquisition for academic libraries.
We’ve interviewed our development partners for the ProQuest blog so you can learn more about the reasons behind their decision to help build a solution like Rialto.
Today we’re featuring Imperial College London, a specialty STEM institution of 17,000 students spread over eight campuses. Consistently rated amongst the world's best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines.
ProQuest chatted with Gavin Phillips, Acquisitions Services Manager at Imperial College.
ProQuest: What do you think are the most pressing issues or challenges to solve with Rialto?
Gavin Phillips: Being a research institution means not all of your resources are going to be hugely well used. That’s the nature of innovation – there are not that many people doing that thing, otherwise it wouldn’t be innovative. We do often need to look beyond the raw data on usage and that’s tricky sometimes. Something that looks like it shouldn’t be in your collection or a subscription that should be cancelled might actually be supporting a small group of researchers who are bringing in ten of thousands of pounds in grants each year. It’s time-consuming to do qualitative research to understand this kind of usage. That’s what attracted us to Rialto. With Rialto, we want to free up time by creating quantitative data to support our purchases. We recently moved our print business to ProQuest after a procurement exercise.
“We wanted to work with suppliers who were using the latest ways to communicate between systems. We were fed up with having time-consuming manual or outdated processes that were 20-25 years old.”
One of the attractions of ProQuest was that it was using Alma APIs to communicate between systems, which is faster and more reliable in our experience.
I had a conversation with Bob Nardini about a year ago about a vision, which became Rialto, to embed the marketplace within Alma so there is no systems interoperability. It’s all one system. That just really appealed to us.
The other issue is that our selectors are incredibly busy. They are being asked to do more and more teaching of information literacy with the departments, so they have very little time to actually select books. Most of their spending doesn’t start until spring because in the autumn, when school starts, they are short on time. As a result, it can be a real challenge to spend their budgets. The potential of Rialto to put recommendations in front of selectors is hugely valuable. Selectors can be presented with items which are most likely to get great usage and all they have to do is click a button.
And finally, speed of supply can be an issue. We get a reading list the first week of teaching. Immediately students are needing to use the books, but it takes time to order them. The more effective we can make our processes, the quicker we’ll be able to provide materials for our students.
PQ: How does this reflect on the leadership role of your library?
GP: Our library’s mission is to inspire Imperial’s communities of learners and researchers by connecting them to information and expertise. We hope Rialto will help us to connect our learners and researchers to the information they need, which free up our time to supply the expertise.
PQ: Has being involved as a development partner helped you learn more about an industry issue?
GP: One of the things I had no idea about is the potential of machine learning in libraries as I’ve started to think a lot more about how processes can be automated. I can see a lot of application for automation in some of the reports we already run in the library. For example, we have a report for items that are in heavy demand. If we start to get that kind of data in the right place in the system and some rules to support it in the right place, then maybe we don’t need to do anything at all. The books will just arrive.
This has also started turning cogs in my brain, particularly around reading list work. All the data is in Alma. If it can all be put in the right place, instead of checking hundreds of reading lists, we would be able to simply get a list of things we need to buy, and we could confirm if we want to or not. There are all sorts of possibilities. This could save hours and hours of work each week.