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Interview with Russell Palmer, assistant director at GALILEO virtual library

AvatarBy Michelle Silvestre
Category - Blog

Tuesday 5th March 2019

Star speakers from across the information industry will share their thoughts and expertise at the annual OpenAthens one-day conference taking place on 19 March at the America Square Conference Centre, London. Hot topics will include user-centred design and experience, user consent and privacy, piracy and practical use of identity and access management. 

We had a chat with plenary speaker Russell Palmer, assistant director at GALILEO, ahead of this year’s conference to find out what we can expect from his presentation.

GALILEO is one of the largest library consortia in the US, serving around 2,000 educational organisations within the state of Georgia, and here Russell discusses the team’s determination to fulfil its strategic vision and goals of facilitating knowledge and providing tools and resources for all its users to meet their lifelong learning needs.

Please can you give us an introduction to GALILEO? 

GALILEO was established in 1995 and is Georgia’s virtual library. We provide access to electronic resources across a range of institutions which include the state university, private colleges and universities, public schools, private K-12 schools, technical colleges and public libraries.

We’re quite unique in the US in that we serve such a large proportion of the state’s population. We provide access to a range of content that isn’t available elsewhere on the internet through the New Georgia Encyclopaedia, the Digital Library of Georgia and the Georgia Government Publications, for example.

Our offering also sets us apart, as we provide a number of additional services beyond the portal access to databases including providing comprehensive professional development services, resources and training.

What is GALILEO’s vision and mission? 

From the beginning, an important focus of GALILEO has been lifelong learning. In 2016, we launched our new strategic plan and we’re very much at a time of expansion and growth. GALILEO aims to be central to the learning experiences of the Georgian population throughout their lifetimes.

That’s why GALILEO is so much more than just a database provider. The Affordable Learning Georgia initiative – the free textbook programme – is very important to us for fostering connections to learning. It saves students millions of dollars. We’re involved in several initiatives like this which are helping us to stay in the consciousness of the state of Georgia.

A part of my role as assistant director is working with public and school libraries to provide training and this is very important to me. I help library and other staff at our institutions to use GALILEO and make sure they are getting the most out of it by giving them strategies to integrate the resources into the curriculum. On a personal level, it’s great to work with GALILEO and contribute to lifelong learning.

A huge part of our mission is providing accessibility and facilitating learning and that’s how we came across OpenAthens – a SAML-based authenticated system which would give us the opportunity to customise our research portals in a way we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

So, GALILEO now works with OpenAthens? 

It does! We started speaking with OpenAthens in 2017 after experiencing technical problems following GALILEO’s servers transferring to HTTPS protocol. Our software was outdated and it was no longer keeping up with our needs.

We contacted EBSCO who put us in touch with Rob Scaysbrook at OpenAthens and we had a number of online meetings to discuss how the single sign-on solution would work for us at scale. Throughout the whole process, the OpenAthens team was very reassuring and incredibly competent.

In January 2018 we finalised the decision to use OpenAthens and at the beginning of this year we completed the sixth pilot implementation. The system is going to enable us to provide GALILEO customers with the greatest value and to tailor our users’ experiences.

In April of 2018, Vee Rogacheva, Kristina Symes, and Rob Scaysbrook visited us in Athens to complete our pre-implementation planning. During this time, Vee led UX Research, speaking with library staff and users in our academic, technical education, and university library spaces. The face-to-face planning time and UX experience has proven crucial to the success of our implementation.

The data we can gather using OpenAthens’ reporting tools will also empower us to improve our customers’ ROI by monitoring usage and being able to understand what users value (and provide more of it!).

What insight can you give us ahead of your talk at our conference? 

I’m looking forward to exploring GALILEO’s strategic plan in greater depth at the conference in March and discussing how OpenAthens has become a significant part of this by enabling us to tailor our users’ experiences to provide them with the best possible journey.

The 2019 OpenAthens Conference ‘User-centred by design’ is going to be an inspiring event and I’m thrilled to be involved.

Don’t miss out on what promises to be an engaging conference programme and reserve your place now!


Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

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