Breaking Up and Moving On: Emery/Stone Chapter 7 & 8

On Breaking Up:

As a follow-up to their chapter on annual reviews, Jill Emery and Graham Stone offer advice to librarians who have decided that they need to cancel some of their electronic resources. Cancellation cannot be a decision that you make on your own (nor can you keep it to yourself). It is important to communicate with stakeholders and help them understand the repercussions of the change. For example, I would imagine that sometimes when budgets are cut, the budget “cutters” may not always realize what is being lost. Meeting with the faculty to help them understand what needs to be done may help them prioritize and puts the onus of a difficult decision on them. Stakeholders may also shed some light on reasons for underperformance of a resource.

Even if you are ending a relationship with a vendor, you shouldn’t burn any bridges. After all, you never know if that representative you just yelled at for raising your subscription rates will decide to move and become your new representative with a different vendor. Or, your funding may return in a couple of years, and you might want to take them back–who wants to go back with their tail between their legs. Instead, it’s best to approach cancellation with the attitude that feedback helps the market. Regardless of your reason for leaving, letting the vendor know why might help them improve their service or someday help you again.

Of course, your patrons will also need to be notified–the more notice, the better. Change is hard for folks and the transition will be smoother if they know it’s coming or if you can give them some time to get used to the replacement. It’s a good too to keep notes on your reasons and plans for canceling for your staff. You wouldn’t want someone to accidentally re-order something that you just tried to cancel. Also, down the road, that stinker of a cancelled database might be on the table to be purchased again and we wouldn’t want to repeat a mistake just because you didn’t communicate the problem with them.

Moving On:

Emery and Stone suggest that the state of e-books is in the same mess that e-journals were in about 10 years ago. Here’s hoping that vendors, librarians and researchers figure out what they want and how to use them soon. There’s some disagreement on the best format for e-books in libraries, so like a lot of things, they feel like a risky place in which to sink a lot of money. Traditional publishing may look different in the future and scholarly content delivery may come from sources we wouldn’t expect. The trick is to be on the cutting edge, but not the bleeding edge.

In my opinion, the most exciting prospect for electronic resource management is the refinement of the workflows in ILS and ERM Systems. Like Ken Chad says, ILSs are “ripe for disruption.” As electronic resources have taken their place in libraries and we’ve need ERMS to keep track of them, it only makes sense that the ERMS and the ILS start working together. Why not look for a consolidation that saves time and keeps us from duplicating information? New systems will help us work smarter, not harder. To get better, we’ll need to keep looking at TERMS and understand the frustrations, needs and wants of the information professionals on the front lines.

Preview of the “Annual Review”

Jill Emery and Graham Stone described the reviewing process in chapter 6, “Annual Review,” of Techniques for Electronic Resource Management (2013). The process itself is pretty straightforward and the authors offer several valuable tips. For example, it is a good idea to divide your resources into batches and schedule yourself to review each quarter, making sure that you are allowing time to meet cancellation notices if you need to. Another wise piece of advice is to compare new licenses to the existing contract to be sure that unwanted changes haven’t snuck into the deal.

Since we often have access to usage statistics, this data should also play a big role in the decision-making process for continuation or cancellation. COUNTER-compliant usage data makes it easier to compare usage across vendors, with indicators like cost-per-use or percentage of total e-resources budget. Like they say, you can prove anything with statistics, and it’s nice to see how a vendor fits in among its peers—where it’s apples-to-apples, not apples-to-Volkswagens.

You can check up on vendors to see if they are actually providing compliant data by finding their listing (or lack thereof) on the COUNTER website. Even if they aren’t COUNTER-compliant and you still value their service, you should ensure that they minimally are sending you some kind of usage data in some form. However, besides usage data that comes directly from the vendor, it’s also smart to keep track of trouble, outages and downtime on your own. This could be useful in your decision-making process when searching for loser products, or even getting a refund or lower price on renewal.

Emery and Stone suggest that many vendors are open to re-negotiation once they realize they might be on the chopping block. This came as a surprise to me, especially after learning about the Big Deal packages of databases. If your library subscribes to a Big Deal plan, prices and amounts of content seem to be fixed. I would be surprised if vendors would be willing to allow you to negotiate a smaller package or drop your number of simultaneous users in that context. With Big Deals dominating large percentages of material budgets, the ability to have a bargaining chip on the vendor is definitely appealing—however, wouldn’t it mean that re-negotiation would actually change the deal into a “medium deal”?