Editor’s Prologue: Recently, the staff of Doody Enterprises interviewed four librarians, asking each the same 15 questions about licensing arrangements with database vendors and how those arrangements have evolved over recent years. Their comments represent a current snapshot of the best practices in licensing. We will present excerpts from those interviews in a Q&A format as the Guest Articles for this and the next two issues of the DCT Monthly Newsletter.
Doody: About how many web-based databases does your institution have a current site license to?
Barbara Dunham (BD): 600 – includes bibliographic, content, and ebook collections.
Beth Lewis (BL): Twelve.
Bryan Stack (BS): In the range of 50-100, encompassing bibliographic databases, content databases, and databases that combine both.
Marian Simonson (MS): 136 bibliographic databases. About 20 content databases.
Doody: Can you identify the major ones/the most popular ones?
BL: PubMed (free!), Web of Science (WOS),UpToDate (UTD).
MS: UTD, PubMed, Ovid Medline, CINAHL, Scopus, ClinicalKey, WOS, Access platforms. For nurses, Lippincott’s Nursing Advisor and Lippincott’s Procedures and Skills. For psychiatrists, PsychiatryOnLine and PsychInfo. For everyone, RefWorks.
BS: Bibliographic databases are most active. EBSCO Medline; CINAHL; Academic Search Premier (these include full-text content). WOS is important internally because it provides a trail of vital resources (backward and forward). McGraw-Hill’s Access platform. ClinicalKey. eFacts for pharmaceutical information. Many get users indirectly, through people coming into the database from the library’s catalog or discovery tool.
BD: American Chemical Society’s SciFinder; Alexander St. Press collections in humanities and history; BioOne, Elsevier, Oxford, and Wiley journals; Gale databases and collections (Business Insights Global, Archives Unbound); EBSCO databases such as Academic Search Complete; ProQuest databases and collections
Doody: Which ones do the librarians like best? Why?
MS: Ovid and EBSCO have the best (easiest) admin tools, and they provide good support. It’s relatively easy to get changes made in our setup and easy to get reports from their systems. NEJM’s site licensing group is very easy to deal with. HighWire’s admin system is good.
BS: The gold standard for management and administration are the EBSCOhost bibliographic databases because they all use the same structure for the admin site, presenting search and discovery and linking in a consistent manner. EBSCOhost is also excellent on usage reports. WOS handles wild cards and truncated searching effectively. UTD is immensely popular with users but it’s very particular about identifying specific users. As a general principle, we like to have a behind-the-scenes admin system interface that’s clearly organized to manage IP range and contact people, for example. That gives us a clear idea of what we have access to (perpetual access vs. subscription time period access). The gold standards for these kinds of admin systems are Elsevier for its databases and Wiley and Springer for their journals.
BL: The ones we like because they’re easy for our patrons to use are PubMed, WOS, Micromedex, and Scopus. The ones we like because they’re easy for us to administer are WOS, PsychInfo, and Micromedex. We like these because (1) they offer easy renewal processes; (2) they feature flexible licenses allowing us to add or delete components; (3) the pricing is fair; and (4) it doesn’t require a lot of work to get a quote. One particular vendor requires a lot of time-consuming work; we have to come up with the number of clinicians working in a number of different areas for them to come up with a quote.
BD: From an acquisitions librarian perspective, vendors who use SERU (Shared E-Resource Understanding), making it unnecessary to negotiate a license, are appreciated. We like to work with vendors who are flexible, responsive, and willing to negotiate their license terms and prices.
Doody: Which one(s) do the end users like best? Why?
BS: UTD; PubMed (access to Medline, even though the library tries to steer them to EBSCO’s version of Medline); PsychInfo; Cochrane Library (the Wiley version); we licensed ClinicalKey last May and it became very popular almost immediately.
BD: Databases that have lots of journals.
BL: Our users are not aware of all the databases they have access to, which is a frustration for the library. Anyway, they like PubMed which is available everywhere, it’s free, and it’s searchable. Clinicians like UpToDate, with its very predictable and familiar interface and easy searchability.
MS: UTD and PubMed are easy to use without any training. ClinicalKey has a nice user interface, but CC’s proxy server apparatus is not compatible with ClinicalKey, making it a challenge to provide remote access to our users without interruption.
Doody: In purchasing a site license to a web-based database that will cost several thousands of dollars, what is the internal evaluation process? The internal approval process?
BD: Part of the review process is carried out by subject librarians and constituent groups they work with. Internal approval is made by a collections team, and then referred to me to negotiate the price and license terms.
BL: First, we need internal interest in it. Demos are usually involved. And we like getting free trials if possible. If we like it, then we move it to 12-member library committee meeting. Members include a variety of patron types of varying ages and both sexes (clinicians, post-docs, researchers, nurses, etc.). Typical service term on the library committee is 3-4 years. The committee meets once a year in late summer and decides what do we renew/not renew, and what new products do we take on. Any items over a certain price threshold that we recommend need the approval of the chief academic officer (who is usually a member of the library committee) and then the chief financial officer.
MS: If it’s something we don’t have, then I’ll initiate the review. If I like it, I pass it along for review to other librarians. If they all like it, then we’ll ask the vendor for a price. If the price is reasonable, then we’ll initiate a free trial, asking targeted users to participate. Librarians end up making the final determination, except for UTD, whose price tag requires approval of library administration, as well as others outside the library.
BS: Collection development committee (CDC), consisting of the library director and the heads of three departments within the library, plus the collection services librarian (me). The CDC consults with liaison librarians, who in turn consult with the departments they are assigned to. Products are compared with current holdings to decide can this new product replace or supplement an existing holding.
Doody: Do you expect free trials? Demos? Limited access so that members of an advisory group can work with this site before reaching a decision?
BL: Free trials depend on the price point and type of product. We want to get users involved in the trial process and also want the library committee members to participate and recruit others to participate. It’s difficult to get clinicians to participate in a trial. Publishers almost uniformly comply with our request for a trial…sometimes to the full database, sometimes they’ll restrict access. The typical time frame is 30 days, but most publishers also allow extensions, if needed.
BS: If we have reasonably credible interest, we’ll ask for a limited access trial for the librarians. If this goes well, we’ll ask for a more public trial. We don’t want an open trial unless we’re sure we’ll get it because we don’t want to establish false expectations. In lieu of trials, some publishers offer video demos and webinars. After the trial period, we review the feedback, then determine if we are adding it to the budget or dropping a resource to pay for it. That is ultimately a decision of the committee.
MS: I only opt for a free trial if I’m confident we can pay for it. Very rarely does the publisher not allow a free trial. Unfortunately, it’s not yet feasible to do a trial for how a product can be integrated into EPIC, our EHR.
BD: New databases must be trialed. Almost all vendors allow free trials either limited or open to all users. A free trial allows us to examine the contents of the product and the interface. We need to see if it will provide good content in a useful way for patrons. We do trials for resources we are interested in. but the purchase decision is made by a collections team.
Editor’s Epilogue: The second article in this series, appearing in the May issue of the DCT Newsletter, will focus on licensing and pricing models, as well as typical terms in licensing agreements. The third and final installment, in the June issue, will cover the ideal site-licensing model, usage reports, and important considerations often overlooked in licensing arrangements.