LJ Talks with Kathryn Earle, Managing Director for Bloomsbury Publishing

Kathryn Earle, managing director for Bloomsbury Publishing, discusses Bloomsbury’s signature style and shares insight into how their resources contribute to scholarship, research, and discovery.

Kathryn Earle, managing director for Bloomsbury Publishing, discusses Bloomsbury’s signature style and shares insight into how their resources contribute to scholarship, research, and discovery.

Bloomsbury’s signature style pairs beautiful imagery with inviting content. Can you define this style and describe how this approach shapes the research process? 

An early objective for Bloomsbury Digital Resources was to create a consistent branding roadmap to showcase our values. Visuals have always been vital to our strategy because our content tends to be visual. We all know how powerful an image can be, but importantly, visuals support different ways of learning. Many of our resources focus on the creative arts, and these subjects tend to attract more students with dyslexia. We believe that clean, intuitive visual learning solutions provide a richer experience for nearly all, while supporting the specific needs of visual learners. But also, objects tell stories in ways that texts can’t. It’s one thing to have an object described for you, which is passive, and another to read its visual history yourself, which is active. Visuals support discovery in ways that text can’t because they grab attention, whereas long lists of text results may not. A challenge in creating any learning resource is engagement, and getting users excited about content is generally easier with visuals. The approach doesn’t lend itself equally well to all disciplines, but we try to maximize visual impact even with more text-based subjects.

This year, you’ve published some exciting new databases in film and the visual arts. Can you discuss how these resources are important to reference today?

Reference constantly evolves in formats, business models, and access methods, but the goal of providing trusted, vetted content remains fundamentally the same. Earlier this year, we launched Bloomsbury Art Markets, which shows how the market has shaped art history, who the key players were, and what their influence has been. This resource provides a high value for provenance research and for anyone seeking to understand the connection between commerce and the canon, which is profound. The fact that commerce has been largely left out of art history is remarkable, given the formative influence of actors. We can grow this resource in any number of directions. For me, this is why reference is so exciting: it can map a topic (including those new and emerging), supply multiple entry points for discovery, move learning and scholarship along, and, at its very best, provide a springboard for new research—even potentially creating disciplines that otherwise might not exist.

In what direction do you see Bloomsbury heading in the future? Are there any gaps that you’d like to fill?

It’s such early days for digital! So yes, there are many gaps. To date, we have tended to focus on areas that are core strengths for us, what we call “deep verticals”—the visual and performing arts, for example. Just within these areas, the opportunities seem limitless. For example, this fall we will be launching Bloomsbury Dress and Costume Library, a project that has value for both the performing arts and dress history. So, it connects disciplinary dots even for two mature areas for us. Video presents countless opportunities, and with cultural institutions increasingly moving to digital outputs, the opportunity for bringing premium content to the educational market can only grow.

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