Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Summer 1999

Conference Reports

STS College Science Librarians Discussion Group

Rocco Piccinino
Smith College

Kathleen Kenny
Bowdoin College

Selecting Full-Text Subscriptions

This session focused on the complicated process of selecting electronic full-text subscriptions, many of which are useful for college libraries, but difficult to afford. Tim Klassen, Science Librarian, Weselyan University (Conn.) and Jennie Devaery, Science Librarian, Kenyon College, made brief presentations on their experiences in acquiring key electronic resources, either on their own or by working within consortia to achieve the best outcome.

Tim Klassen explained how he worked with faculty and his library director to obtain a subscription to SciFinder Scholar in order to improve access to chemical information across campus, and particularly to strengthen support for graduate level programs. By canceling duplicate formats and under-used sources, enough funding became available to purchase a subscription to this new service. Since its introduction on campus, SciFinder Scholar has proven to be popular, and, as a result, an enhanced user access license is needed to meet demand for use. Tim emphasized that having dependable and timely usage reports was crucial in documenting need and enlisting support for the purchase of an additional user license. Tim suggested that in other circumstances STN Easy might be an appropriate alternative to SciFinder Scholar.

Tim also told about his experience in working with a library consortium to purchase access to Inspec. After IEE withdrew Inspec from First Search, and the price for a subscription for a single institution increased significantly, Tim sought to obtain a more affordable price by working with the CTW (Connecticut College, Trinity College, Weseleyan University) Consortium and with the Oberlin Group, an affiliation of 76 liberal arts colleges. He described his method of coordinating negotiations among the interested libraries and two vendors. In the end there were enough subscriber libraries to arrive at an acceptable subscription price. He noted that the needs of small colleges are not always factored into vendor database pricing and licensing proposals. Tim concluded with the observation that "patience is a virtue" in the negotiation process.

Jennie Duvernay explained how Kenyon College has used its membership in three different consortia to obtain licenses to various resources. She discussed the process of OhioLINK's selection of Web of Science. She went on to describe Kenyon's acquisition of Institute of Physics journals through the Oberlin Group and her efforts to license MathSciNet when it seemed that no consortial agreement was likely.

Though sometimes complex, this scheme of multiple consortia seems to work well for Kenyon. Formal consortia provide support for member libraries, especially staff who specialize in negotiating licenses. On the other hand, member libraries have to compromise on the choice of products. Less formal arrangements sometimes allow for speedy agreement on a chosen resource, but someone must take the lead in achieving agreement within the group, and for negotiating the license.

A lively question and answer session and wide-ranging discussion followed the presentations. Some of the issues explored further include: the difficulty of finding sufficient funding to pay for high-priced database services when canceling other formats is not an option; the complications and obligations of license agreements; the need to have informal consortia, such as the Oberlin Group, to incorporate formally in order to strengthen their position with vendors; the fact that many vendors are still developing pricing structures and often do not present viable pricing and licensing options geared for small liberal arts colleges; and strategies to obtain and maintain good rapport with colleagues in non-science areas given high cost of science databases.

At the session closing, several of the twenty-five who attended the discussion group meeting adjourned to the French Quarter and had a wonderful jazz lunch at Mr. B's Bistro.


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