08_BR_Lipinski

Licensing Electronic Resources in Academic Libraries: A Practical Handbook. Corey S. Halaychik and Blake Reagan. Cambridge, Mass.: Chandos Publishing, 2018. 200 p. $78.95 softcover (ISBN 978-0-08-102107-1).

The proliferation of electronic resources (e-resources) arguably brings several benefits to libraries, including instant, from-anywhere access for patrons and automated workflows for technical services that are potentially more efficient. However, it also brings new challenges. One of these challenges is licensing the many e-resources offered through the contemporary library. Halaychik and Reagan address this challenge in Licensing Electronic Resources in Academic Libraries: A Practical Handbook. This resource primarily covers three license-related topics in five chapters. Chapters 1 and 3 discuss the basics of licensing and licensing law. Chapters 2 and 4 address the licensing process through the full life cycle of licenses. The final chapter discusses negotiating licenses.

This book lists two specific objectives for its readers: that they will be able to “understand the contents of a license” and “successfully complete the licensing life cycle from start to finish” (back cover). Both are worthwhile objectives that are very relevant to the regular responsibilities of librarians who handle licensing. However, this particular resource is more successful at fulfilling the first objective. Based on this reader’s page count, over one-third of the book consists of example licenses, both with and without explanatory comments. Other introductory content is provided to help the reader to better understand everything included in the licenses. While the organizational structure and writing style may prove challenging, most of the content needed to understand what makes up a license can be found within this book.

Because the scope of the second objective is so much larger, the reader may not be as likely to successfully complete every step in the licensing life cycle if this book is the reader’s sole resource. This resource offers detailed information about the negotiating process and some valuable information about potential workflows, but the level of advice offered for each step is somewhat inconsistent. For example, the book provides a seven-step process for opening locked Microsoft Word documents. However, in the two-paragraph section that discusses understanding and writing general contract language, the authors simply reference an outside source despite their assertion that “It would be difficult to over-emphasize the importance of good contract language” (95).

One of the strengths of this resource is the two co-authors. This particular book is written by both a librarian who manages licenses and a lawyer who works in procurement. Having a procurement officer as one of the authors offers a unique level of insight that is not currently available in the literature. Another strength is the example of an annotated mock license in all of its various iterations. Seeing all of the changes a complete license may undergo is not readily available in other books about this topic.

Related to that, however, is one of the least appealing aspects of this book: the repetitiveness of licensing examples and descriptions. The book presents mock license agreements immediately followed by the very same mock license agreements, but with added comments. Considering the length of some of the mock licenses, that space could have been better used to flesh out more details related to the processing of licenses.

Another potential issue is some of the authors’ assumptions about licensing and library processes that do not necessarily reflect this reader’s personal experience. An example of this concerns price quotes. The authors deliberately suggest requesting a license for review and negotiating non-business terms such as governing law, accessibility, etc., before requesting a price quote as “cost should be a secondary consideration in the negotiation process.” In their own words, “while cost most certainly is a concern for most libraries, the authors prescribe to the belief that funding can always be identified for new purchases” (135). Unfortunately, this reader’s experience, and perhaps the experience of other readers, does not necessarily align with the authors’ beliefs.

Additionally, this reader found the editing to be subpar and jarring at times. There were several noticeable grammatical mistakes, and the organization of the content was not the most intuitive. For example, the seven-page chapter “Basics of Licensing Laws” is not adjacent to the related chapter “Basics of Library Licenses,” but is sandwiched between “Library Process Improvement Considerations” and “License Layout and Lifecycle.” However, despite its flaws, this book contains valuable content that could prove useful to its targeted audience as part of their collection of licensing-related resources.

The authors wrote this book with a specific audience in mind: new and currently practicing e-resources librarians who participate in the licensing process. This book is definitely appropriate for e-resources librarians who negotiate and manage licenses. The content is tailored to the challenges and issues that this type of librarian regularly faces and relevant licensing examples are provided. Additionally, while the title suggests the authors were specifically targeting academic librarians, it is not difficult to assume that much of the content could easily be applied to public and special librarians who serve the same function.

However, this book is not quite as successful at targeting both new and experienced readers. The organizational structure, writing style, lack of glossary, and inconsistent level of detail results in a resource that may not be the ideal introduction for new librarians who are just beginning to learn about licensing. Librarians new to licensing may be better served by Licensing Digital Content: A Practical Guide for Librarians as it includes a glossary, FAQs, “licensing tips” that summarize the key concepts, and a more intuitive organizational structure—at least for this reader.1 Additionally, for librarians more experienced with licensing, some of the passages in the reviewed resource may seem unnecessary or redundant, and some desired details about contract law or implementing best practices may be lacking. For more experienced librarians, the Librarian’s Legal Companion for Licensing Information Resources and Services may offer more comprehensive coverage as it includes 735 pages of detailed legal information and a licensing toolkit comprised of a glossary, deconstructed library licenses, sample key clauses, and over a hundred questions and answers for evaluating licenses.2 That being said, Halaychik and Reagan’s Licensing Electronic Resources in Academic Libraries: A Practical Handbook offers elements that should appeal to both new and experienced licensing librarians. Regardless of the librarian’s level of experience, any reader should be able to take away something useful from this book.—Mandi Smith (ms054@uark.edu), University of Arkansas

References

  1. Lesley Ellen Harris, Licensing Digital Content: A Practical Guide for Librarians, 3rd ed. (Chicago: American Librarian Association, 2018).
  2. Tomas A. Lipinski, Librarian’s Legal Companion for Licensing Information Resources and Services (Chicago: American Library Association, 2013).

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