Paul Gazzolo joined library resource vendor Gale, part of Cengage Learning, as senior vice president and general manager this November. He will be leading Gale’s strategy, product development, sales, and marketing teams, working closely with Gale’s partner libraries. Before moving to Gale, Gazzolo was general manager of research and learning at Wolters Kluwer CCH tax and accounting service. Prior to that position he served as president of World Book, where he successfully transitioned the well-known encyclopedia into a digital presence.

“Paul is exactly the right person at the right time,” Jim Donohue, Cengage Learning’s chief product officer, said in a statement. “His experience in shifting markets and leading digital, global transitions will serve us well as he extends the Gale brand internationally and uncovers new opportunities for growth, development and service to our library customers.”

LJ spoke with Gazzolo shortly after he joined Gale to talk about plans for his new responsibilities, and why a liberal arts degree is useful in the business world.

LJ: You have experience in diverse fields, including publishing, marketing, and software and product development. How have they all informed your current role at Gale?

PG: I have a nontraditional background for the publishing world. The first half of my career I spent at Procter & Gamble, in their health care business, marketing to doctors. That really gave me an appreciation of how to understand consumers and customers, and do deep research into their motivation and what drives them to make decisions. I left P&G in 2000 to go to Lexis-Nexis as a VP in marketing and found that it wasn’t that big a jump from doing research with doctors, and developing brand and business plans, to doing that with the lawyers who were Lexis’s primary audience. I [launched] a global brand program for Lexis—the Lexis-Nexis…brand standards that are now all around the world. And that really gave me an appreciation of how in the electronic world and digitally delivered content, brands still really make a huge difference in defining what a product is, and what the value proposition is.

I then had the chance to move my family back to Chicago, my hometown, as president of World Book. I was excited because I’d grown up with World Book, I had a set in my home, and I really thought that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take a great print brand and redefine it for the digital age. What I really got an appreciation for there was just how much I enjoyed the K−12 education market and the public library market. One of the most satisfying parts of the job was forming the World Book web—we had over 15 different databases that we built—and really trying to drive students’ engagement with that content. When I left there we had over a million visitors a day, which was quite an accomplishment considering where we began.

From there I went to Walters Klouwer—I was interested in a bigger publisher and they were also based in Chicago. Walters Klouwer gave me a real appreciation of the importance of platform. But probably the greatest thing that I took from Walters Klouwer that I’m applying to the job at Gale is the importance of mobility—being able to take content and free it not just from the bounds of print, but also desktop delivery.

I’d say the golden thread that’s run through my whole career is helping professionals be better at their jobs, whether it’s building information products or health care products to help them do that.

It looks like you’re in a good place to do that now at Gale.

Oh, absolutely. I am so excited to be joining the Gale Cengage team. One of the challenges that I saw in the reference market at World Book was trying to make reference more a part of the core curriculum, to engage students with it and to drive up usage—which is good for libraries and good for business. I think the match between the Cengage position in the higher ed learning market, and the Gale content is second to none. I think there are all sorts of ways we can use that connection and make learning richer and make libraries more valuable to the overall university-college learning process. The other thing about Cengage that really…impressed me was their technology. They’ve invested heavily in technology; they’re hiring a whole domestically-based technology team with centers of excellence in Boston and New York, and the product leadership at Cengage is as good as I’ve seen in the 15 years that I’ve been in the publishing world.

The other thing that attracted me, quite frankly, is just the Gale brand and the business itself. I don’t think there are a lot of publishers, content-based companies, or technology companies that have the chance to touch as many customers as Gale does. Between K−12, public libraries, and higher ed; in the United States and around the world—this is a business that can touch lifelong learners anywhere, and that’s tremendously exciting. Gale is obviously known in the humanities, but when you really look at our product line it’s quite vast. We have health care related products, and we now have [Career Online High School], which is helping libraries help students who dropped out of high school finish and get their GEDs or do career training.

Can you talk more about Gale’s global growth?

A significant portion of our customer and revenue base is outside the U.S., and I only see that getting bigger. I think we’ve just scratched the surface. Historically our product program has its origins in English and American literature…but I think Gale has really worked to expand its content base to look beyond that. The Eighteenth-Century Collections are actually a great example of truly a global product, where the pamphlets, literature and all the different learning and thinking across the entire 18th century was digitized into one massive archive that is cross-searchable. I think it’s with that spirit that we’re looking for opportunities to publish information from different parts of the world.

In Brazil, Cengage Latin America has partnered with us to publish Brazilian and Portuguese History and Culture: The Oliveira Lima Library, a significant historical collection of archives on Brazilian history, and we’ve connected a collection in Brazil that’s part of the National Museum with one that’s part of Catholic University in the U.S.. So that’s another example of taking the Cengage footprint in a different region and trying to connect it with Gale know-how to publish something that no one else has done before.

Given the fact that you haven’t been at Gale very long, do you have anything exciting in the works?

There are two things I can take no credit for, but that I think LJ readers would be interested in. The first is the curriculum correlation capability. We have the capability of correlating all Gale content with courses in higher education institutions. Why is that important? It allows librarians to work with faculty…in order to develop supplemental reading lists, glossaries, or anything else to support the objectives of the curriculum. There’s potential to take that even further with Cengage’s MindTap platform. So curriculum correlation is huge, obviously more for a academic libraries, but even in AP courses for the K−12 market.

The other thing is text-mining capability. When I was at the Charleston Conference… just seeing the interest and excitement on the part of the deans and directors about the capability that we have was really exciting. It develops all sorts of potential for academic research.

Do you have any favorite Gale programs or databases?

I’d have to say Literary Criticism. I wish that I had spent more time in front of Gale sources when I was in college. I started out as an economics major, and was one course short of finishing when I fell in love with English, switched, and ended up an English major. My thesis on Moby-Dick would have been much better if I had spent time with Gale resources.

Do you find your English degree has helped with what you’re doing now?

I think the liberal arts…are just a great foundation for any endeavor. At all the places [I’ve worked], and especially Gale, I’ve felt prepared because you learn to learn. What you don’t understand or you don’t know coming into the job, you’re able to apply that curiosity and those learning tools, and most importantly learn from those around you. To be able to have an office right next to Frank Menchaca (Gale’s executive vice-president) and ask him a question, or spend time with his editorial team, is invaluable.

You worked on branding at Procter & Gamble. How do you envision the library brand?

It’s a very important question. I think communities and libraries are intrinsically tied together. And the library is not just the brain of the community in terms of being the source of knowledge, it also can be the heart of the community. I’m thinking not just about a public library in a town like the one where I live, Willamette—which has a spectacular library—but also in a college…. When I’m visiting a college I always insist on going to see the library. It’s not so much about how big the collection is, because that really is not as important as what it feels like inside that building.

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