Q & A with EBSCO UK’s Richard Burkitt: Invitation to Innovation

News | June 19, 2019

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Keep reading to learn about EBSCO UK’s Richard Burkitt, and how his wealth of experience helps libraries streamline processes and improve services across Europe and Africa.

Richard Burkitt is Director of Software as a Service (SaaS) Innovation for EBSCO Information Services in the UK. Richard brings his wealth of experience to help libraries streamline processes and improve services and help users access resources quickly and easily.

1. Prior to joining EBSCO Information Services, what did you do?

I’ve always enjoyed working. I used to wash cars, split firewood and do general odd jobs in the neighbourhood. As a teenager I worked making Japanese style beds at the weekend before the usual bar jobs at university. In the summer holidays I was a boiler cleaner in a power station. It taught me the value of making friends; no one wants to be the only person in a spooky power station at night! Oh, I also used to dress up as a pirate and run a mini golf course for kids. I did a load of reading in that job!

After university I worked for the Nature Publishing Group for a few years. I’d consider this my first ‘unreal’ job. I’d had enough of ‘real’ jobs on 16 hour stretches with an industrial vac on the power stations. Nature was great. I started answering calls on the web team and ended up leading the support team. I was so nervous the first time I went to New York. I cured that with a pastrami bagel. Still the best sandwich I’ve ever had.

Eventually I joined the sales team at Emerald Group Publishing and got to know a ton of librarians and a ton of problems associated with the move from print systems and resources to those of the electronic world. A few years down the line I was running the EMEA Sales Engineering team at Serials Solutions and loved the innovation of the first few years I was there. One of the most valuable things I did at that time was work shadowing in a library. I saw the redundancy in legacy systems, I saw the workarounds librarians have to do ‘because we have always done it’. The more I looked, the more workflow issues I saw.

The move to EBSCO was the next ‘unreal’ role. The innovation I love, the desire in the organisation to make things better, to scrap the rules of existing systems and the belief in colleagues from all over the world that we can absolutely change libraries for the better.

2. What is it that has kept you interested in library services?

More than anything it’s the people and the culture. By this I mean colleagues that share a belief that we can act together for a common goal – even when the goal is distance away and the route is complex. I highly value the direction we can take together and the trust we collectively share in that direction.

I have a great deal of time for librarians as well. I’ve found the natural tendency of a librarian is to help. Many times, I’ve been stuck, trying to figure out a problem, only to realise that I should have adhered to that wall sticker we have all seen ‘Ask a Librarian’.

I also really value disruption in a mature market, such as that of library systems. Libraries just don’t have the tools for the job right now. And I’m always excited to share how the future is taking shape but also how the library can realise its full potential with the services EBSCO has available now.

3. How long have you been with EBSCO now, and what is your current position?

I’ve been with EBSCO just over three years. I’m Director of SaaS Innovation for UK & Ireland, Scandinavia, French-speaking Europe, Middle East and Africa.

I see my EBSCO colleagues as my clients. I want to enable success of my colleagues, of our customers and of EBSCO. To get that win for all parties is the goal and it can’t be achieved without a culture of inclusion, innovation, trust and respect.

“I spend quite a bit of time explaining how and why EBSCO develops services to alleviate specific library workflow problems. I love taking the complexity of systems and making their form and function digestible.”

4. What does a typical workday involve for you?

It’s not easy to define a typical day as I’m to a degree reactive to the demands of my colleagues from many different regions and how their day shapes up. I tend to travel quite a bit in support of their activities. This can mean joining sales meetings, partnership engagements, and conference presentations. Coffee is pretty much a constant. Is it a generalisation to say librarians drink lots of coffee?

I also spend time familiarising myself with new developments in the market, what’s going on with releases of software, touch base with colleagues about questions they have about SaaS services, how EBSCO systems work with non-EBSCO services in the library. I spend quite a bit of time explaining how and why EBSCO develops services to alleviate specific library workflow problems. I love taking the complexity of systems and making their form and function digestible.

5. What do you love most about your job?

EBSCO is different. And special, but I need to qualify that a bit.

To me, it’s only when you have spent significant time at other organisations in the library industry that you get a feel for an organisation. Peter Drucker’s famous quote ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ resonates here.  I see the strategic goals of EBSCO supported by a very enabling culture and that’s special. I love being part of that.

6. How does what you do help libraries?

What I hope to be able to do is add value to my EBSCO colleagues’ long-earned, good relationships with librarians. What I do is a piece of the solution. Through a team approach I seek to provide a trusted source of credible information about an ecosystem of high-quality data and applications that a library can assess and believe in.

The team we have is great in technology, product management, sales, support and leadership. We all earn this credibility through what we do every day.

7. What do you like to do in your free time?

I’m coming out of a couple of years renovating our house. I’ve loved it but it’s been hard work. That combined with a couple of lively girls and a job that isn’t a regular 9 to 5 means limited free time.

I do enjoy building bikes from old parts and fixing bikes in the neighbourhood. I also love designing and brewing beer; something I used to do with my dad when I was young — he told me it was science and I have no reason to doubt that!

I’m told I’m handy in the kitchen as well. Some would say I scrub a pan like no other, but I like to think I can hold my own at a dinner party.

Otherwise, I haul the kids and my wife out on weekends to the Peak District National Park, which is right next to where I live. I’m always looking for folks that can walk further than a four-year-old!

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