NASIG 2009: Ensuring Perpetual Access to Online Subscriptions

Presenters: Judy Luther (moderator), Ken DiFiore, Nancy Gibbs (contributed, but not able to attend), Selden Lamorueux, Victoria Reich, Heather Ruland Staines, and Kim Steinle

Librarians have asked publishers to ensure that they will have perpetual access available to paid subscribers, which is a reverse of the previous arrangement with print, which required the librarians to preserve access to the physical copy in their buildings. It took publishers some time to address this, and it continues to evolve.

Libraries, and academic libraries in particular, have proven staying power. Librarians, working with publishers, are responsible for providing access to information.

There are two issues with online perpetual access: maintaining access to content when a subscription ends and maintaining access to content when a publisher ceases to exist. Libraries have the resources to be custodians of the content through digital preservation practices, both alone and in community.

How are librarians & publishers managing expectations for the financial impact of moving to online-only content? First, make sure that there is some sort of preservation guarantee. You will need to start shifting staff from managing stacks/materials to managing online, which will impact training needs. There are cost savings in space and opening up the building to other relevant uses. Peter McCracken suggests that we should emphasize the service and benefits of online content.

Libraries purchase the delivery mechanism, not the content. Owning a print archive does not mean that online is automatically free. And, it’s not just the content that you get with online. The user interface is an essential component, and it isn’t cheap to develop or maintain.

The most important thing that librarians need to do is read the license agreement. If it doesn’t specify what happens to content if a subscription is canceled or if the publisher ceases to exist, negotiate for that to be added. CYA, folks! If you pay for it, make sure you’re really going to get it.