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Re: Negotiate or sign? (Was: "Confused")

I am very pleased to see this discussion on library license.  As a
librarian working for a large federal government agency, I have long been
concerned about the value of licensing for electronic products.  As most
of you already know, the federal government has many rules and regulations
governing this subject.

The question everyone should by asking themselves is: What value is added
to a license agreement by the librarians, lawyers, review committees et
al, all which must spend many hours of precious time reviewing and making
sure the i's are dotted and the t's crossed?  Since we are a government
agency and a license is considered a contract, it must be reviewed.  
However, what value are we adding to these licenses?  Are we getting
better service?  Are the taxpayers being served by all the time spent on
this process?  What is the actual purpose of this review anyway?  How many
licenses have been challenged in court?  What are we really getting for
all this review?  Yes, please don't argue that we don't have to review
licenses, of course we do! However, isn't there an easier way?

My library has a long history of managing, monitoring and writing
contracts.  I was a contracting officer; currently monitoring the library
contract, and have experience writing contracts.  Contracts are written to
protect the interest of all parties.  Contracts are only effective if all
parties clearly understand up front what their responsibilities are for
performance.  In the case of electronic licenses, are all parties
performing according to the contract?  What was the original intention of
the license/contract?  Was it to protect the publishers interests or
rather was it to protect their profits?  Since publishers are in business
to make money, I do not begrudge them their profits.  If the purpose of
the contract was to protect publisher profits, does the current license
process achieve that?

My customers want access to information electronically.  They do not care
about licenses or all the time needed to negotiate them.  They do not
understand the months spent negotiating a multi library license and all
the details that are needed to satisfy everyone requirements.  They just
want access to the information.

There is a better way - the total elimination of the need to have a
license agreement for access to electronic information.  For those
libraries that are purchasing information from the publisher or consortia
that require special consideration, a contract is a must.  However, for
most libraries who are purchasing access only with no special
consideration, is a license agreement necessary?  Why should purchasing
electronic information be any different than purchasing a printed copy?

Since most publishers aren't that far along in this thinking, the generic
license strategy is a good one.  Our library plans to actively pursue the
streamlining of licenses by working with a vendor to have them act for us
in the negotiations.  Using the FEDLINK (Federal Library and Information
Network) model license agreement, we plan to have a generic license that
the publisher must agree too.  This will not be easy.  There will be
plenty of resistance by all parties, however we cannot continue down this
path any longer.  We do not have the staff or resources to spend months
negotiating when ultimately we are adding little value to the agreement
and our customers demand for more titles increases.

Our library has been working on consortia purchasing.  We have succeeded
in a major purchase for five libraries with a large publisher, but it was
very difficult.  One aspect that made it easier was the publisher's
willingness to greatly modify their contract and satisfy the needs of each
library. This was absolutely necessary.  Recently, a person who use to
work for a very large publisher told me that most publishers put licenses
in a file and never look at them again!  Does this make any sense to

If publishers and libraries really want to have workable contracts, then
both parties need to take responsibility to understand them and gain
mutually from the agreement.  If this is not the case, then licenses are
not worth the paper they are written on.

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of
my agency.

Carolyn L. Helmetsie			Library & Media Services Branch
Library Team Leader   		Office of Chief Information Officer 

NASA-Langley Research Center      telephone: 757-864-2378
Technical Library-MS 185		fax: 757-864-4575
2 West Durand Street			
Hampton, VA  23681-2199		email: c.l.helmetsie@larc.nasa.gov