How academic librarians can open a window onto a world of information


Online resources such as PressReader can help libraries connect their users with the content they need

In recent blog posts, we have explored the ways that technology has changed higher education, how tech has helped academic libraries evolve and get through challenging times. We have also taken a look at just a few of the many online resources – including PressReader – that are available to enhance library users’ research capabilities. 

This time around, we’ll take a deeper dive into how PressReader can help academic librarians serve the needs of library users. First, though, let’s look at the bigger picture. 

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 A hub to facilitate learning 

Writing in our very first Future of Libraries report in 2019, Nikolay Malyarov (PressReader’s Chief Executive Officer, International) noted that in order to thrive in our modern world, libraries must embrace the principles of the “experience economy”, in which people are more interested in being active participants than they are in passively consuming. 

“Libraries have long been places to read, study, and work,” he wrote. “But in today’s experience economy, they need to be much more.”  

  • They need to inspire, entertain, and engage.  
  • They need to become central hubs that facilitate learning in all its forms (face-to-face, experiential, online, etc.), peer-to-peer and peer-to-faculty collaboration, and sharing.  
  • They need to be experiential destinations where the act of discovery is exciting and educational.  
  • They need to foster a sense of community inside and outside of the physical building.   

 Bridging people and technology 

Citing a report from the Society of College, National & University Libraries, Nikolay wrote that in the United Kingdom, a number of libraries have taken on new roles, “providing maker spaces or research data services.” In this way, they become more than just shared spaces; “they’re spaces where students can meet to hypothesize, collaborate and experiment to further their own learning, while creating something new.” 

The fundamental role of the academic library, of course, is to connect its users with the content they are looking for. That has not changed, but technology has transformed the way that people access that content. Online resources – of which PressReader is only one example — do much to connect library users to the research materials, trusted sources and entertainment they need. It’s librarians, though, who bridge people and technology. 

In 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, PressReader spoke with Mack Zalin, the Librarian for Modern Languages and Literatures & Comparative Thought and Literature in the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University.  

“Just because you cannot find a resource doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” Zalin told us. “It comes down to not only knowing the technology, but knowing the field, and being aware of the resources that we as librarians have at our disposal. It also comes down to just trying to figure out what exactly it is that patrons need. They may think they know, but ultimately as librarians we have to determine what is required.” 


PressReader helps you stay connected 

One such resource is PressReader, which can provide users with access to more than 7,000 high-quality publications from around the world, covering topics that range from business, science and technology to art and design. Because PressReader offers content from more than 120 countries in over 70 different languages, it allows students and faculty from all over the globe to stay connected to what’s happening locally and back home. 

Zalin has become a regular user – and a big fan — of PressReader. As he wrote on the Sheridan Libraries & University Museums blog, however, our platform initially flew under his radar, and that of many of his colleagues as well.  

“As both a librarian and a philologist,” he wrote, “I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me so long to notice a database like PressReader, which, to my mind, makes for an easier reading experience than NewsBank, ProQuest, and similar services that tend to take a more archival approach to the news…. However, when some of my colleagues informed me that they hadn’t heard of PressReader either (including a member of the French section of Modern Languages and Literatures, who had long sought to find a way behind the paywall of a major newspaper like Le Temps), I felt a little less like a Luddite.” 


A world of information, in context 

For his part, Zalin found PressReader when he was looking for a way to read El País, the Madrid-based newspaper he first discovered in his student days. 

“Every time I open PressReader, I feel like I’m back in Srta. Whitaker’s Spanish class, mesmerized at another new window into a veritable world of information I had no idea existed before,” he wrote. “Through it I’ve discovered not only an eminently readable digital version of El País (formatted like a broadsheet newspaper, with clickable articles and even a ‘listen’ feature that converts texts into surprisingly accurate voice-overs in robo-Castillian accents), but myriad other resources as well.” 

For college and university students, access to up-to-date content can fill in some of the gaps left by more traditional academic research resources. Many research tools and other online sources of information are text-only, which can result in low engagement. Users, like Zalin, are delighted to discover that PressReader offers full-page replicas of publications, so readers can get all of the context, including images and infographics – and all on a user-friendly platform designed for ease of navigation. 

PressReader’s Self-Pub feature lets you upload your own content to the front page of the platform so you can keep students and staff informed about the latest news at your institution. 



Information at the speed of culture 

Best of all, the content on PressReader is as fresh as today’s newspaper, and updated just as often. Whether they are researching a rapidly developing topic or just trying to keep abreast of the latest news, academic library users need access to information that is current and updated daily. 

 With PressReader, they’ll always find the most recent edition of publications like The Guardian, Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, The New York Post — and yes, El País – plus thousands of others. And if they’re looking for an article from an earlier issue, they’ll be able to search PressReader’s catalogue by date. 

For Zalin, accessing the content he loves on PressReader (and discovering new favorites along the way) is affirmation that libraries still have a vital role to play, and that he chose the right career path. 

 “At the risk of hyperbole, this experience exemplifies why I love working in libraries: no matter how much I think I may know, what I have yet to learn is still much more,” he wrote. “With the help of my brilliant colleagues and the resources they oversee here at the Sheridan Libraries, I can continue to find new worlds and turn the Spanish saying aún aprendo (‘I am still learning’) into a reality every day.”  

Learn more about how the PressReader can give you the tools your library needs to help students succeed.  


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