Reaching New Horizons: Gathering the Resources Librarians Need to Make Hard Decisions

Jenica Rogers
“Jenica Rogers” by Cindi Trainor

Speaker: Jenica Rogers, SUNY Potsdam

She is speaking from the perspective of the librarian. Resources are information, relationships, and identity. Money and human resources are outside of the scope of any speaker, but they follow on to successfully building the other three. If we had all that we needed, decisions wouldn’t be hard. It’s the scarcity that makes them challenging. She will talk about mitigating that scarcity.

The big deals gave us the sense that we can have everything, but the bubble is bursting for most of us. Librarians have to find a way to make change in an environment where everyone else likes the status quo.

“I could never do what you did.” She hears that a lot about many things she’s done, from moving away from ACS bundled purchases to demanding clarity in pricing to licensing terms. She doesn’t think they mean they don’t want to do it, but that they aren’t able to do that. “We can’t rock the boat too much.”

This might be true, but it’s unfair to say “I could never do that.” They could if they want to, but they have to lay the groundwork.

When she first started as a librarian, she was the liaison to the sciences. She asked why their journals cost so much and why they needed them, and they were helpful in providing data and reasons. It made sense for that organization, so she didn’t seek change.

She did the same investigation at her current organization. She saw a need to do some hard things, but her role as collection development librarian didn’t give her the mandate to build the relationships needed.

The first thing we need to do to move beyond just doing the tasks to strategic stuff is to build a framework of what we do and why we do it. We need to know the context we exist in, through awareness of the profession and business at large, publishing cycles and trends, faculty tenure, course deliver, institutional goals, etc. Some frameworks to consider: HEPI 2.1% overall and 8.1% for supplies and materials, research data curation mandates, and Ithaka comparison data.

The second piece is personal. You have to know yourself to be someone to make hard decisions and move forward with confidence in the work you do. Do you know your goals, strengths, and weaknesses? Change starts with you. It’s easy to keep doing what we’re doing. It’s satisfying to do your job very well, but do you know why you do it? Do you know where you fit into the bigger picture?

Your personal capital is based on your reputation and identity. You can burn your capital because you have acquired it through personality and what you’ve done. You need to build that capital in order to make changes. It doesn’t matter why you have your reputation, or what it is, because it’s what you do to get by.

Be the expert on your problem. Gather the data and evidence. Building your capital can be easier if you have the data or expertise to back that up. Sometimes the facts can shout when you can only whisper. Consider gathering data because it’s a communication tool.

Make friends. Ask people about themselves. They like it. It’s an icebreaker that works in every social and professional setting to help you connect with people. If you need to know who to go to when you need help/feedback/support.

Start now. There is no such thing as too early, but too late is real. “I couldn’t do that” really is “I couldn’t do that right now.” All the things you need to do to this you have to acquire/develop before the moment of need. Start gathering the resources immediately so when you reach that point of need, you have something to draw on.

Find common ground. Where do your issues touch your allies’ issues? Every scholar has a different need or approach to their work and resources. If you want to talk to a group knowing they have all those different needs, then you need to find the common ground and link that to the things that matter to you. Your network of allies can be connected far more than you think.

Communicate effectively. We librarians are great at many things, but we are not so good about talking about the things we love to people who don’t love it. Sometimes we need to know when to go for a hard sell or just coffee. Spreadsheets with pie charts might work with one person, but a story is better with another. Casual email vs. letterhead. Do it yourself or delegate. Messages can get lost if the medium and message are out of sync. Consider how you are communicating your message — will it resonate with your audience?

The only thing you can control is yourself. That said, sometimes you have to be reactive. Be prepared to be surprised and respond well.

The time has come for us to consider evolving. The information economy is changing, so we have to do that, too. It will be based on local needs/climate, but there will be change. To do this we need a constant network of support. People who supported us in the print world may not want to support us in this new way, but there are others who will. There are new partners and allies if we go looking for them.

Release fear. Fear makes you defensive. Fear does not make strong partnerships. Fear does not make smart decisions. Fear makes safe decisions.

There are no easy choices, but it’s almost always worth it. In a world of scarcity, it’s never going to get easier. Anyone can do whatever they need to do when faced with a hard decision if they have done the work to build that safety net.

Yer Doin it Wrong: How NOT to Interact with Vendors, Publishers, or Librarians

[This was more of an open discussion with folks from the floor asking questions or making comments. The presenters had a long list of rather leading questions about whether certain behaviors from librarians or vendors were acceptable. Frankly, I wish this session had more focus on tactics and was less of a series of complaints.]

This was a timely capture
“This was a timely capture” by Peretz Partensky

Speakers: Jenni Wilson (SAGE), Anne McKee (GWLA), & Katy Ginanni (Western Carolina University)

Ground rules: Keep comments respectful and anonymous (no personal or company or product names).

McKee thinks it is okay for publishers and vendors to make a fair profit. An unfair profit is where the burden is on the backs of libraries to support the publisher/vendor’s members or corporate demands.

Ginanni thinks it’s a balancing act between dealing with the devil and negotiating the best deal for our users.

McKee says we need to form partnerships with our vendors and find a compromise, including when it comes to fair profit.

Sometimes libraries will hang on to invoices for months because the vendor put additional licensing terms on the back. It’s important for the libraries to communicate to the vendor why. Ginanni suggests we also need to educate our accounts payable offices on the reason why the invoices should be paid in a timely fashion.

Ginanni suggest that if your accounts department or other have trouble understanding our business practices, the phrase “industry standard” can be helpful.

Is it ever appropriate for vendor sales people to go over the head of the acquisitions/collections librarian if they say no? Maybe only if they are being an absolute brick wall or “don’t like” you.

McKee says that librarians are too nice about things and we really need to approach our vendor relationships like a business. If it’s not working out with a sales rep, ask for a new one.

What do you do when a new publisher wants to charge hosting fees for content they acquired that has zero hosting fee licenses? Wilson says that is ridiculous. McKee says point to the license.

McKee says she now prefers RFI to RFP because there is no commitment to purchase something, and allows you to write a broader focus to not inadvertently eliminate relevant products/vendors.

McKee suggests that if a sales rep tells you they will lose their job if you don’t buy their product, then there is probably a bigger issue about their performance than you.

From a System of Journals to a Web of Objects

image by Al Q

Speaker: Herbert Van de Sompel, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Scholarly communication has transitioned from paper-based system to a system of digitizing paper to a digital native and networked system. His group is doing research on this transition and what it means.

He has worked on several relevant projects over the years. MESUR looks at metrics for scholarly objects. Memento makes versions of resources accessible. Hiberlink is time travel for the scholarly web. ResourceSync is for moving resources from one place to another.

The common denominator is using the web for scholarly communications. It’s about interoperability across scholarly systems and information using the web. They focus on making it more accessible for machines, which in turn makes it easier for humans.

Will we be able to visit the scholarly record in the future like we used to be able to do in the paper-based system?

In the paper-based system, it is easy to revisit the original publication context of the article. You may have to visit several libraries to do so, but it’s possible to completely reconstruct it years after the publication of the original article.

In the current system of web-based journals, we not only have references to the context, but also links to them. We don’t have to travel to visit the referenced articles. Libraries fell out of the responsibility for archiving this content, so special organizations like Portico emerged. But, can we still revisit the entire publication context in the future under this model?

Article to article links are brittle and can break, particularly with mergers and acquisitions of publishers. DOI and other persistent identifiers are a work-around, but it’s not perfect, and it’s geared more towards being easy for humans than for computers. The landing page for DOI makes sense to humans, but machines can’t tell which one is the real thing that can be archived. We need a machine-readable splash page, too.

In the current system, we rely on special-purpose archives for long-term preservation when the general commercial systems (i.e. publisher websites) close. But, not everything is being archived, and it’s the stuff that isn’t as much in danger, such as those from large publishers that are easy to grab from the web. And what we’re collecting is journal-based, which doesn’t capture any of the scholarly web content that is most in danger of disappearing over time.

It gets worse.

Our online scholarly content is now linking to more than just articles. Software, data, project blogs, and other content created by researchers in their work. These things are not preserved like the article content. The software can change and the data can disappear. Over time, the context of this article is lost. Hiberlink seeks to fix this.

Reference rot is link rot plus content drift. He quantified reference rot for PubMed content by looking at how much had been archived within a 14 day window prior/post-publication, and most of it wasn’t. Of the parts that had been, only a little experienced reference rot. The un-archived content was almost entirely rotten.

This is not just STEM-H. The New York Times recently published an article about law journals and Supreme Court decisions. There is a dramatic percentage of link and reference rot. This also exists outside of scholarly/academic content, such as in Wikipedia references.

There are limitations with crawler-driven web archiving, particularly when embedded content is archived at different times from the HTML. This would be really bad in the scholarly context.

Librarians need to increase web archiving projects with focused crawls. Start with your own institutional web pages (projects). There are subscription-based services like Archive-It. SiteStory is open-source software for self-archiving that his team developed.

In the course of the production of an article, there are several intervention points for self-archiving references. There’s a prototype Hiberlink plugin for Zotero that will auto-archive when the author bookmarks a site. helps authors and journals create permanent archived citations in their published work which they can use as persistent links in their papers.

The Memento plug-in for Chrome will allow you to view the archived versions of websites.

When we link to archived resources, the current practice is to replace the original URI with the URI of the snapshot in the archive. This prevents visiting the original URI if desired, and prevents the use of the snapshots in other web archives because they use the original URI as key. It also requires the permanent existence and uptime of the archive. We’re just replacing one link rot problem with another.

Many commercial and non-commercial web archiving services for links have come and gone, taking their URIs with them. He is starting to work on a way to augment the links to provide temporal context. The project is unofficially called 404 No More.

Research data is a huge component of web-based scholarly communication. There is discussion of looking at software as scholarly communication (GitHub). Presentations are a part of this, so we need to think about sites like SlideShare as a part of the scholarly record. Wikis are increasingly used for scholarship. Electronic lab notebooks augment experiments and allow them to be shared online. MyExperiment is a social portal to share scientific workflows.

The research process, not just its outcome, is becoming visible on the web, but contain many objects we don’t know how to archive. There is increased use of common web platforms for scholarship that give the impression of archiving, but are merely a record. The communicated objects are heterogeneous, dynamic, compound, inter-related and on the web, and archiving must take these object characteristics into account.

What is the scholarly record? Where does it start? Where does it end?

Rounding Up Those Prices: Do You Know What You Are Paying For?

photo by Joe Duty

Speakers: Tina Feick (HARRASSOWTIZ) & Anne McKee (GWLA)

Getting pricing is like a round-up. “Don’t try to understand ’em. Just rope, throw, and grab ’em.”

The journal pricing season timeline:
May-June: agents send letters to publishers asking for pricing; agents get ready to send out renewal lists to libraries with either last year’s price or an estimated price
June-Jan: price lists received from STM and university presses (often on paper, not digitally), trade publications send pricing updates year-round; libraries submit renewal lists
Oct-Feb: agents pay publishers

Pricing options are complex now, and depend on format options, library types or size or usage, and whether or not archival content is included.

You really need to read the fine print on digital content. Some of the “digital” content comes in the format of PDFs that must be downloaded and archived locally. Some come with a user name and password that is hard to distribute across the institution. Think about your requirements and other deals before asking your agent for a quote.

Look at your agent’s reports: format options, price comparisons over time with predictions, price increase notifications based on a percentage minimum, etc. Agents often have tools to manage your e-deals with pricing caps or package pricing and title swaps. ICEDIS is working on ONIX-PC (price catalog) with Springer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, Elsevier, and agents.

Not all consortia are alike. They are created with different goals and groupings. There are as many consortia types as there are world religions. Shared focus, institutional context, tiers, multi-type, buying clubs (almost a bad word among consortia), geographic, overlapping (most libraries are in more than one), funding agencies, annual dues versus retaining percentage, etc.

Consortial pricing:
The list price might not be the same from member to member, depending on historical spends, previous licenses, and the size of the institution. Price caps impact list prices institution to institution, and can either be for the entire collection or title by title. FTE pricing is preferable, but only when it’s based on the faculty/students within that discipline. Otherwise, Carnegie is good as long it’s the current model. She hates the ARL pricing, because it isn’t fair to the smaller schools.

Partnerships are very important. Work with the vendors.

GWLA has three approaches to new content: a member library approaches them, publishers approach them, or the consortium office comes across interesting products. They use Basecamp to coordinate all of this, and every proposal is loaded in there.

Pricing from the vendors/publishers: Give a ballpark figure, don’t ask for how many are interested. No hard copy — email or attachment. Give 90 days for the consortium to respond so that all the member libraries have time to consider it within their own workflows. Prefer to get offers in March or August, and have access on a calendar year for the contract. If the contract is ready to go earlier than that, she expects free access until it officially begins. She looks a the license first, and if the publisher won’t work with them on unacceptable, she doesn’t even send the offer to the members. GWLA doesn’t have a central pool, so everything is opt-in, and 20% have to be interested in it to move forward as a GWLA deal, but they have eased up on that a little with the recession. All of the discounts go to the members, as all administrative costs are covered by the membership fee.

Things to consider: Timing of offer and decision deadline is crucial — a 30 day special is unrealistic. Understand that the library and consortia work on a different fiscal year than you. Is it a fair offer? It’s okay to make a profit, but it needs to consider the library’s position. Once you have some kind of deal, libraries need to make sure their subscription agents know it.

What does GWLA purchase? Content is paramount. Multiple modes of discoverability. Financial issues (publisher stability) and the impact on library budget. Library friendly, realistic licenses that aren’t dated or need to be kept up as technology and practices evolve: fair use (not just CONTU), ILL (prevailing technology of the day), walk-ins, distance learners, alumni, etc. SERU is even better. An abundance of invoicing options. We are partners, not outlaws!

Working in consortia is like herding cats, but it’s better than being a skull out in the desert.

Agent service charges: they get a discount from the publisher, but not always, and the rest of their income is from library service charges. It is rare that they get more than 5% discounts, but back in the day it was much more, and they have to make up that difference with the fees. The pricing is based on the ease of obtaining the material, the average cost of the subscription list, the average publisher discount for the list, service requirements, total volume of subscriptions, length of the contract, operational costs, and competition from other agents.

Why isn’t SERU widely used yet? Last year, they added ebooks, which may be one reason why it wasn’t used. Legal counsels at institutions are reluctant to allow us to spend that much money on a one-page contract.

Where is the GWLA model license? — agreements and licenses tab

Pricing season timeline — sometimes these processes can take longer than expected. Would like to see a longer grace period than Feb 1, especially if negotiations are pending. Publisher asks if we would be okay with letters of understanding? Yes. Another publisher says that packages have longer grace periods.

Has there ever been any push-back on transparency on service fees, particularly those built-in to the prices? They can’t develop a standard for this because it could be consider collusion. Libraries can ask agents to detail it out.

Librarians want access immediately. How to mediate their expectations to better fit the timeline above?

Critical Moments: Chance, Choice, and Change in Scholarly Publishing

Dr. Katherine Skinner
Dr. Katherine Skinner at NASIG 2014

Speaker: Dr. Katherine Skinner, Educopia Institute

How do we better make sure that there are connections between all of the players in this scholarly space?

The Educopia Institute advances cultural, scientific, and scholarly institutions by catalyzing networks and collaborative communities. They want to preserve digital scholarly information for the long-term, in a neutral, lightweight solution.

In the early 2000s, digital scholarship was uncharted. The frontier depends on your perspective, since it’s not really as blank a slate as it appears on the surface. Establishing a settlement in the digital frontier is difficult because traditional business practices work to enforce each other. We have to respect traditions to adapt them.

How do new fields come into being? Sociology looks at the factors in place to make change happen. Skinner focued her dissertation on the creation of new styles of music, and these questions led her to become deeply involved with questions about scholarly publishing. She wants to revolutionize the way scholarship is produced.

Field formation: principle 1
Beware changes in the modes of communication — new fields and practices emerge.

Example: The printing press revolutionized the modes of communication in the Church, causing it to splinter into different groups allowing the people, not just the leaders, to interpret the content.

Field formation: principle 2:
Innovations don’t come from the center, they come from unexpected locations.

Example: When the phonograph was created, 150 record companies sprung up. But, by the time the Great Depression hit, the market for records had declined, but were revived by the creation of the juke box. The records were changed out weekly, creating a larger demand for more new content. It also exposed more white Americans to black music.

Field formation: principle 3:
Cultural process of production, distribution, and reception depend upon networks of people.

Example: Castellers in Barcelona are teams of people who “build” towers several stories high, standing on each other’s shoulders. We need closely integrated chains of dependence in our communities.

The internet has shifted the nature of communications. Our media is conservative, and it’s in a business model developed and established over centuries. We’re starting to notice some of the innovations around us (example: Elsevier acquisition of Mendeley) and bringing them in from the fringes.

System-wide change requires system-wide involvement. We can’t change one tiny aspect and expect the rest to shift — it has to happen across the system. We can’t do this in silos. We have to work with all the players, and remind them why we’re here and why we matter.

Our mission as librarians is to support and sustain access to cultural, political, and scientific knowledge. That’s radical and wonderful. We need to start committing our resources to efforts to make change, like DPLA. It’s not just about content types, it’s about networks of people supporting the broader public good.

Chance keeps us very interested, because we never know how it’s going to turn out. Theoretically. Sometimes it can be rigged. Every time we turn around, there are game changers like computers, scanners, the Internet, mobile devices, etc. These provide us moments when massive changes in communication can occur.

Some of the entities in these moments have rigged the system to their own advantage. Over and over, we have made a choice to go along with them.

Publishers are motivated differently from librarians, and the communication changes have had a huge impact on their ability to do what they do. Some have folded or been absorbed by larger companies. Publisher are seeking survival right now, and many are motivated to support the academic environment, but they come at it from a different perspective than librarians. They are acting out of self-interest not because they are bad, but because they are seeking survival in an uncertain marketplace where libraries are seen as a stable source of income. They can’t survive in the common marketplace at 10% a year increase, but they know libraries will absorb it, so they turn to us.

Why are we choosing to let a marketplace impinge on our mission as libraries? Every time we turn from permanent collections to rented collections, we are failing our mission. The recession has hit us hard, and it’s going to hit us harder before it’s over. Higher education is starting to downsize, which includes the money the publishers expect to get from us.

Flexibility is the trademark of survival. We can turn this situation around. We could resist change by doing the same thing the same way, or embrace change by being on the bleeding edge, or go at a moderate pace. But none of these will work as individuals. We have to do them as a community in a network to make real changes.

Trends to watch: library publishing (Library Publishing Coalition), web archiving (, preservation, and open-access funding.

Audience member suggests that schools who pay OA fees should get rebates on their subscriptions for those journals in order to increase parity in the system, since institutions that have actively publishing scholars end up paying for the rest of us to get it free.