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 are presenting excerpts from those interviews in a Q&A format as the Guest Articles for the April, May, and June issues of the DCT Monthly Newsletter.
Doody: What is your preferred access model to databases you have licensed for your institution?
Beth Lewis (BL): My preferred access model, from an administrative standpoint, is IP secured access. It MUST allow remote access, and must have a mobile interface, particularly if it has clinical information. Nearly all databases we license use this access model. Individual username (UN) and password (PW) access is not a deal breaker but it does require more time to administer [and, therefore, is less appealing to the library].
Bryan Stack (BS): My preferred access model is IP address, allowing for remote authentication and access through our EZProxy server. We don’t like having to support UN and PW, but recognize it’s required sometimes if functions need to be tied to individual users. We want full web browser access and access for multiple devices and operating systems.
Marian Simonson (MS): Our preferred model is IP secured access, including remote access. Mobile access is becoming increasingly important. UN and PW as primary model is a personal nightmare for the librarian. Who will maintain it? Users can’t remember their personal UN and PW. At ClinicalKey, a user can customize the experience on site and needs to create a UN and PW, but the user typically remembers it in this instance.
Barbara Dunham (BD): IP secured access, with remote access. The trend is the database has to be accessible on mobile devices. UN and PW is frowned upon because there’s too little control library can exert on access. If we license a database access to which we have deliberately restricted to a very narrow audience, then we’re willing to go with a UN and PW model. This is very rare and may not allow off campus access. Our library has not committed to a model that uses tokens since we don’t see a practical way of administering token distribution given the size of our patron population.
Doody: Are there access models that you regard as particularly cumbersome, that is, difficult to enforce, difficult to administer?
BS: Requiring the library to identify each user and limit access to a specific population is cumbersome and frustrating, especially when individual access needs to be renewed frequently. If pricing model is on a set number of users, it works, but it is cumbersome to administer. Distributing tokens is also a cumbersome model.
MS: RefWorks is the only UN and PW site we license. UTD allows for off-campus access for mobile devices, but the PW expires in 30 days, requiring the user to re-register while on campus. Good security, but it is a PR debacle.
BD: UN and PW.
BL: To set up remote access for a point-of-care tool required the publisher to work with our IT folks to integrate its database in the hospital system’s EHR. That was difficult to set up and required a big investment of time initially, but it’s been low maintenance since the installation. We’ll probably tie another large point-of-care tool into the hospital system next.
Doody: What is your preferred pricing model?
MS: Tiered pricing is easiest to understand. My least favorite model is number of registered users. Everyone defines registered user differently. What is my preference for pricing? The following criteria are essential: fair, transparent (post the prices online), easy to understand, annual increases in line with the economy.
BD: Most of our models are based on either FTE or tiered pricing. Even in tiered pricing, some form of FTE or number of simultaneous users is involved. Key question: what will the demand be for the database? If a database is very specialized or expensive or low use we may go with a pricing scheme with a limited number of simultaneous users. In most cases, we look for a model that supports unlimited simultaneous users, which is usually FTE based.
BL: Frankly, publishers make [the pricing models] more complicated than they need to be. Some particular examples: super-specialized products should not be priced on the size of the institution. If the database is used universally, then size of institution is a fair pricing model. My preference is pricing by tiers, but librarians like to refer to this as pricing by “tears.” Whether a tiered pricing model is fair depends on the definition of tiers. Most are more complicated than they need to be. And publishers need to be more transparent – for example, can publishers declare upfront something like this, “This is how we decided on the tiered scheme we’re offering.”
BS: I rank my preferred pricing models in this priority order:
- Flat rate that is published. We can budget for it and don’t need to parse out by FTE
- Tiered pricing based on relevant FTEs – must be clearly defined who should be counted
- Number of concurrent users - strongly prefer unlimited concurrency over a specified number of simultaneous users, but are flexible depending on the cost
- Number of specific registered users
It’s also annoying to have to pay a separate license to allow for access by our FTEs who are at a different physical location (that is, on a remote campus, or at the hospital across the street.)
Doody: Regarding tiered pricing schemes, which ones do you think fair? Unfair?
BD: It’s my sense that tiered pricing usually leads to higher prices, especially when FTEs are the benchmark (which is the downside of being at such a large institution as OSU).
BL: Flexibility must be involved. I especially value vendors who are upfront with the way they price their databases and their pricing is easy to understand. Most contracts have language that says, “We reserve the right to move you into a different tier.” But some don’t tell you when they’ve moved you. That’s bad form. A few publish the upper limits to the number of users before you will be taken to the next tier. An eBook vendor has a cumbersome system. While multiple users can be on the site at the same time, a particular title can only be viewed by one user at a time, unless you’re willing to pay more.
BS: We don’t like having to count and pay for irrelevant FTEs. For example, the publisher of a medical database required us to count faculty and students in our pharmacy and nursing schools, in addition to faculty and students in the medical school, to arrive at the right “tier” for their medical database. Since nurses and pharmacists are highly unlikely to use the database, it seems unfair to have to pay for them to access it. This situation comes about because dynamically-designed IP may allow FTEs who had not been “counted” to technically have access to the material in the licensed database.
MS: Tiered pricing that takes into account number of physicians, residents and researchers is a small percentage of total FTE at the institution. Price based on the targeted user group. Some clinical database publishers want them to include nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) but in their system they can’t count PAs and NPs.
Doody: What do you expect in the end user license agreement? What are the kinds of terms you have in site license arrangements that make it easy for the library to maintain and administer access to the licensed materials?
a. What terms are essential?
BD: Remote access based on IP, regardless of physical location; clear definition of authorized access; walk-in users can have access to the database.
BL: Content IS king. If content and usability are excellent, we’ll go through a pain-in-the-neck process. Once the content quality is established, other important terms are: being able to keep the content; limited or no digital rights management (DRM); IP address as the access model; remote access; can this replace something we already have? Will people use it?
BS: Clear statement of content that is available for perpetual access vs. content available only during the subscription year and what are the perpetual access terms when the license is terminated. Also, the material is not encumbered by DRM allowing users to download articles or chapters. Another important term: able to perform interlibrary loan (ILL) directly with electronic material, rather than having to print it out before putting it through the ILL process. Clear, unambiguous statement on what ILL is permitted.
MS: Access on and off campus.
b. What terms are deal killers? BD:
Governing law must be local or silent. OSU will not indemnify the vendor. BL:
Huge year-on-year price increases. Sharp decline in usage kills a renewal. BS:
Indemnification clauses where we accept responsibility of our users or other third parties. MS:
How users are defined; how number of sites is defined. Some publishers are totally inflexible. No upper cap.
c. What are the kinds of provisions in site license agreements that drive you crazy? Why?
BD: Licenses with geographic restrictions and licenses that have confidentiality clauses.
BS: Legal jurisdiction should be relevant to our own state.
Editor’s Epilogue: The third and final article in this series will be published in the June issue of the DCT Newsletter and focus on the ideal site-licensing model, usage reports, and important considerations often overlooked in licensing arrangements.