Written By: Guest Blogger Sophia Guevara, MLIS, MPA.
In library school, I took several courses that introduced me to indexing, researching, and cataloging, yet I was never provided with a course option in resource licensing or negotiation. My first professional position was focused almost exclusively on licensing work. During this time I was able to learn the process from the ground up from a team of negotiators who had extensive experience and added to this with my own research on the subject. In an effort to provide some lessons from that experience to those who find themselves diving into the deep end of the pool, here are five tips:
Understand the digital content life cycle
If you are new to negotiating electronic subscriptions for your library, make yourself aware of the digital content life cycle. If you are not familiar this, take a look at Sadeh and Ellingson’s article on electronic resource management systems (reference below). It is composed of the following: discovery, trial, selection, acquisition, access, renew/cancel. Understanding the life cycle of the resources you negotiate for can help you identify information and input you should be collecting each step of the way to increase your chances of a successful negotiation.
Be prepared for the negotiation
Keep your stats on hand. If you are checking out a new resource, make sure you gather the usage information. If you are renewing or at the end of a product trial, keep the usage statistics on hand and be aware of any problems you have had during your subscription. Were there problems during your trial or subscription? Keep track of these and if you choose to buy or renew, see if you can get a discount based on these problems. You can choose to protect your organization in this kind of purchase by asking for contract language that guarantees availability/access at a certain level (for example, 95%). You can refer back to this in case your experience with the product worsens.
Take your ego out of the equation
Remember when you head to the negotiation table, your ego needs to be left at the door. This lesson is often learned the hard way with a vendor – treating your vendor like an opponent instead of a partner could result in either losing access to content that is important for your organization or a longer response time when an issue arises with a subscription. You could also lose out on discounts due to a bad relationship.
Look for other ways to save money
Sometimes, a multi-year agreement might work for both your organization and the vendor. Try to negotiate for a discount as this kind of agreement can reduce costs for the vendor as you are guaranteeing them business for multiple years at a reduced cost to them. If you can, attempt to make the payments annually instead of a lump sum. Be open to throw-ins. If the vendor can’t budge on cost, try to see if you can get a free trial of a product. With that being said, remember to get a good understanding of what a product might cost your organization once the trial period is over. You don’t want to be surprised by a large bill for a product your patrons love.
Know where to find resources to improve your experience
There are several resources available to help you get on your way:
- Strategic content negotiation for the small library
- LIBLICENSE: Licensing Digital Content
- A practical guide for building a user-focused digital library collection (presentation) (publication abstract)
- Electronic resource management systems: the need and the realization (publication abstract)