Thursday, 15 May 2014

What I learned at that licensing and collections event I went to

I attended "Thinking OCUL-y: A Licensing and Collections Symposium", a full day conference organized by OCUL (Ontario Council of University Libraries) institution members.  It was held at the beautiful Robarts Library, University of Toronto's main library on campus, in the heart of Toronto, Ontario.

But what did I learn?

  1. The first thing I learned was that I wish I knew more about contract law.  I'm reading and implementing the licenses my Library signs for electronic resources all the time as well as supporting the decisions made to sign them in the first place and, although I think of myself as a smart enough cookie, contracts are not straightforward, understandably so.  There were two great presentations on the "anatomy of a license", one from the perspective of contract law, and one from the perspective of librarians signing them and creating model ones.  Lots of good information, both new and now properly labeled in my mind, but it made clear that there's even more to learn.  I should learn it.
  2. Specifically, we should be requiring some things in our licenses that are not always getting in there.  For example, every license should have "integration" which basically means that the contract itself makes it clear that this is the entire deal, and that other communications are not to be taken as binding unless they're in this one.  Lots of our big ones do but many don't.  We should also be making it clear which legal jurisdiction will apply in case of having to deal with contract problems in court, particularly since we Canadian libraries are working with so many American information vendors.  Jurisdiction is not necessarily clear unless it's written into the contract.  And while we're at it, we should be insisting on WRITTEN contracts instead of going by verbal agreements as we occasionally do for smaller products with smaller companies.
  3. Part of the evaluation process needs to include more consideration of license details.  When asking for information about a potential acquisition, we should ask for a sample license, looking it over to ensure that what we might be paying for is actually in there.  We could also share our licensing requirements and ideals at that point as well, to ensure that the vendor knows what we want right out of the gate.  The more time each party has this information, the easier we can work together.
  4. Local loading is increasingly important but the vendors don't always know what it is or why we want it.  To get it, we libraries need to "sell" the concept of local loading to them, and therefore negotiators needs to understand the issues, players and history of local loading.  Also, typically, the usual vendor sales rep isn't going to know much about the topic or the issues involved so negotiations may need to include the people who do.
  5. Although it involves more work, it's valuable to invite other non-collections librarians and staff into doing collections related work, such as reading/coding license terms for easier access.  It lightens the load of course, but it also increases the amount of expertise to be called upon when doing similar work in the future and it really helps them in their primary responsibilities, regardless of where in the library they are.
This is just a sample of some of the things I gleaned from the various presentations.  But there are still some questions or thoughts that I had left over:
  1. Given those clauses that state that this contract is the "entire agreement", how can addenda be added on to contracts?  This happens all the time with licenses, such as changing or updating the terms of a license at renewal, but I don't think that all these licenses have an "except for addenda" clause.
  2. Is the text of contracts under copyright?  A joke was made that many model licenses copy liberally from each other which suggests that they're not, or that at least no one cares.
  3. Patrons seem to have contradictory opinions on print versus electronic reading.  On the one hand, they typically say that prefer print to electronic for deep reading and that ebooks, for example, are just not easy to read for long periods of time.  This may be true but then they also tend to say that print books are better for quickly skimming or browsing to find key pieces of information.  This suggests to me that they're not really saying that one format is better than the other but rather that THEY have that preference which, taken together, suggests that there's just a preference for print that's probably based in familiarity.  We've all used print books longer that there have even been ebooks so of course we're going to be more comfortable with the former.  That doesn't mean we really think one is better than the other.
  4. Is demand driven acquisition really professional collection development?  The Library's collection is valuable not just because of quantity but because the content has been selected for quality with the particular patron groups in mind.  If we directly link that selection to something outside of the professional work, can we really say that the collection has been professionally selected for quality?  This is more a question of the role of the Librarian in collection development and not a matter of creating the best collection.

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