Statement of Current Perspective and Preferred Practices for the Selection and Purchase of Electronic Information

Publishers today increasingly act globally to provide electronic information, and it is incumbent upon libraries to act globally to express their market positions on the pricing and other terms and conditions related to the purchase of that information. This document sets forth concerns about the current electronic information environment, the desired environment for the future, and the preferred practices for library consortia and their member libraries to achieve the desired outcomes. In a rapidly changing technology and information environment, the general goals and views outlined here will remain relatively constant, while the specific terms may change based upon experience.

Although this statement may have general applicability, the adopters expect that its primary relevance will be within the higher education community. A premise of this document is that the current scholarly communication system will continue during the critical transition period from print publication to electronic distribution of scholarly and research materials. Our primary intention is to define the current conditions and preferred practices for pricing and delivering scholarly information within this emerging electronic environment. While other organizations have set forth useful proposals that offer the potential to change signficantly the structure of the scholarly certification and review process [1], those efforts go beyond our current scope. This statement builds upon and complements the work of others to develop principles for the licensing of electronic resources. [2]

This statement aims to provide a starting point for a dialog among information providers and library consortia. The members of ICOLC invite information providers to engage in meaningful discussions about how this document might help advance ubiquitous and affordable information resources for library users in educational and research institutions.

Definition of Terms. The following terms, which may have both general and specific definitions in other contexts, are used within this document as follows:

    E-information (or electronic information). A broad term that encompasses abstracting and indexing services, electronic journals and other full text materials, the offerings of information aggregators, article delivery services, etc. E-information can be accessed via remote networks from information providers, or locally mounted by a consortium or one of its member libraries.Fair Use. Used here not to describe the specific copyright laws or guidelines of any one country, but rather the general principle of a society’s lawfully permitted copying or excerpting of copyrighted materials in the course of education, scholarship, commentary, or to advance learning and other societal goals. Fair use can be made without the user’s paying a specific fee or needing to seek the copyright owner’s permission. (Used interchangeably with the term “fair dealing” that is more commonly used in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.)

    Providers (or information providers). Includes traditional print and electronic scholarly publishers (both for-profit and not-for-profit), trade publishers, information aggregators and other vendors, and other electronic-only information disseminators.

I. Introduction.

    A. The goal of academic libraries is to meet the teaching, learning, scholarly, research, and other information needs of their faculty, students, and affiliates, and to do so effectively and efficiently.
    B. E-information resources are very much in a developmental phase. Therefore, this statement is a work in progress rather than a final product.C. While this statement intends to be broad enough to encompass all types of academic consortia, and to set general boundaries within which consortia usually operate, experimentation is necessary and encouraged within this emerging field. Therefore, this statement is not intended to preclude individual consortia from taking specific actions that may be appropriate to their own needs.

II. Current Problems and Needs for the Future. This section addresses a number of key issues that have an impact upon the provision of electronic information (and electronic journals in particular):

    • Current Problem: Over time, academic institutions typically have spent a decreasing percentage of their educational and general budgets on their libraries. Nonetheless, academic institutions and library clients expect their libraries to obtain new electronic resources while simultaneously maintaining or growing traditional print collections until the electronic resources are fully stable. Libraries also are expected to do this with no additional funding.Future Need: Academic libraries and information providers must use information technologies to facilitate increased information delivery and to make e-information more generally, readily, and flexibly accessible than its print counterpart.
      Current Problem: Although there exists no empirical evidence that fair use causes material or undue harm to providers, many information providers nonetheless are seeking to discontinue the well-established principle of fair use, and they are using the new electronic environment as the reason and means to do so.Future Need: The concept of fair use continues to be relevant and must be retained in the electronic environment.
      Current Problem: Print publications provide a degree of permanence that is critical to academic libraries. However, if not managed properly, e-information can be highly transient.

      Future Need: It is critical to libraries and the constituents they serve that permanent archival access to information be available, especially if that information exists only in electronic form. Libraries cannot rely solely on external providers to be their archival source. Therefore, agreements to procure e-information must include provisions to purchase and not just to lease or provide temporary access.

      Current Problem: Academic libraries are but one of several key players in a large, complex scholarly communications system that is becoming dysfunctional. Symptoms of such dysfunction include: an increasing volume of academic journal publication (particularly in science, technology and medicine) that is redundant or repetitive, and that is generated as much for the certification (through tenure and promotion) of authors as for the advancement of learning; the inability of academic institutional budgets to support the growing number of research journal publications; the push by some publishers to increase profit by charging high prices for catering to the academic research trade; the clash of values in the copyright ownership of academic works; and the reluctance by many sectors, including academic authors, to deploy the new technologies to improve the current scholarly communications system.

      Future Need: Scholars, academic institutions, publishers, and libraries should share a common and compelling interest in fostering systems of publishing that result in broad information access at an affordable price. To achieve this, each group must take steps to improve the current system. Universities and colleges must modify recognition and rewards systems to create disincentives for unnecessary publication. Publishers must charge reasonable prices for journal subscriptions. Academic libraries must purchase subscriptions only to journal titles of certain value to scholarship and learning. Academic authors must develop an understanding of how copyright law works and how to use their ownership, the law, and fair use provisions to support the work of scholarly creation and dissemination. All parties must be willing to take risks to create and implement new, technologically enabled research outlets for initial publication of scholarship and research results.

      Current Problem: Current pricing models for e-information, which are developing during a period of experimentation, are not sustainable. While present pricing approaches of information providers may in some cases be desirable as a bridging strategy to the future, academic libraries, with their diminishing fiscal resources, will rapidly be unable to afford to support the pricing strategies for electronic information currently advocated by information providers. For example, academic libraries cannot afford to commit long-term to the now-prevalent electronic journal pricing model that is premised upon a base price of “current print price plus electronic surcharge plus significant projected inflation surcharges.”

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