A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse into DUL Electronic Resource Licensing: Part I

As the 2020 Continuing Resource Acquisitions Intern, the goal of my work is to make the Duke University Libraries (DUL) electronic resources licensing transition from SharePoint to FOLIO as painless as possible. Duke University Libraries, as well as the Professional School libraries, is in the process of adopting FOLIO as its new library services platform. As one of the first institutions of higher education in the U.S. to implement FOLIO, Duke is in a unique position to create a customized product that meets our needs in addition to providing an example for other libraries. By reviewing and digitizing our current and historical licenses, I can contribute not only to the transition of these documents into FOLIO but also to the metadata and structure of the FOLIO platform itself.

This blog post is the first in a three-part series that highlights my internship in the Continuing Resource Acquisitions department. Get ready to learn about licensing organization and digitization!

Licensing Digitization & Organization

The bulk of my work is the organization and digitization of DUL’s licensing documents. All licenses associated with DUL’s electronic resources are currently filed in two places: physical documents in filing cabinets in Smith Warehouse and electronic documents in SharePoint.

Previous interns have also worked on the organization of these documents, so the goal of my work is to now create consistency between both sets of documents – physical and digital. For instance, if a digital version of a database license were to accidentally get deleted, we would have the physical copy as a back-up. While most of our physical licensing documents are filed and organized well, our electronic documents in SharePoint need some love. Some things I must keep in mind while digitizing licensing documents for the eventual transfer of them into FOLIO is to make sure the digitized files are stable and searchable. Therefore, I have opted to use PDFs as the file type for our licensing documents. One of the main reasons for making this decision is the ability for Adobe Acrobat to perform optical character recognition (OCR) on the documents, making them keyword searchable. The ability to quickly search a licensing document for specific licensing language is critical for the ERM team. Searchability comes in handy when negotiating specific terms of licenses with publishers and vendors, such as authorized users, interlibrary loan (ILL), and perpetual access.

Something I didn’t expect to become so well versed in while organizing our licensing documents is the convoluted nature of academic publishing histories. For example, DUL may subscribe to an online database that was licensed with “Licensor A” years ago. However, “Licensor A,” a small publishing company, was acquired by “Licensor E,” a larger publishing company, which means the product now has a new licensor. You’re probably wondering, “Why is this important?” Well, we file all our electronic product licenses by licensor. Therefore, we may end up having several licenses related to the same product scattered throughout folders because the product’s owner has changed over time. A good way to conceptualize this is to think about large publishing companies, such as Elsevier or ProQuest. DUL has many licenses for products that were once owned by smaller publishing companies at the time of purchase. However, these smaller companies no longer exist after being acquired by companies like Elsevier. Therefore, we may end up having two licenses for the same product – one license with the original licensor and another with the current licensor.

Because of this, I end up going down publishing history rabbit holes in order to determine who the legal owner of a product was at the time of signing the license agreement versus who the legal owner is today. Being relatively new to the field of academic publishing, I’ve found Library Technology Guides to be a godsend in navigating the labyrinthine-like history of academic publishers.

Adapted from Flickr

Interested in how these publishing mergers and acquisitions have shaped the world of academic publishing? Check out Larivière and colleague’s 2015 paper, The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era.

Check out my  blog post next week on license file-naming schemas and controlled vocabulary to see how these efforts will help DUL’s transition from SharePoint to the FOLIO Electronic Resource Management (ERM) apps.