Ramblings, citations and "brainwaves" of a college librarian in Toronto. 475 square feet refers to the size of my home, not the size of my office or library.

Database Bidding Wars

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Posted by: Barbara Bibel to Points of Reference

Our collection development coordinator gave us some disturbing news today. It seems that some magazine publishers only want to deal with a single database and are selling to the highest bidder. First it was Consumer Reports. Now Time-Warner. This means that some of our most popular periodicals will not longer be part of our Infotrac Academic ASAP database. We will have to figure out if we can afford another subscription to get them, whether it will be possible to get a smaller package from the new vendor with those titles that we need, whether our consortium has any plans to work on this, and how to help our patrons deal with either the loss of their favorites or yet another interface. All of this is happening at a time of rock-bottom budgets and increased library use. The whole world of e-media has changed the business model for publishers and they have nothing but the profit motive to guide them.

More by Stephen Abram
"1. Do we want to support the introduction of restrictive practices in the world of knowledge, communities and learning? Do we want to support these sorts of restraints on people in their lives? Should vendors and content owners engage in practices that cause excessive limitations in the world of information content? Are you ready to have to purchase more due to a competitive situation that reduces the content in every vendor? Are your budgets ready for this and is this the right time for this situation? Shouldn't we compete on interface and usability?

2. Do we, as librarians, sit idly by and allow significant resources to be lost for access by every user in our community or institutional users just to satisfy the goals of one vendor’s market share and revenue model? Most library sector vendors are equal players in the library sector and support the culture and value systems of our clients.

3. If content becomes the exclusive of one vendor, do we now have to invest time and effort in a new thorough review of our electronic resources? Are we back to the serials rationalization efforts of the 90s only now dealing with e-copies? Is this the time to add additional efforts to our already stressed or downsized staff? How will these additional costs be passed on and are your budgets ready for a price increase? Is this the economy where one vendor shold be able to introduce these costs into?

4. What other impacts will there be on our staff that are already overstressed by the increases in usage, additional work, and change? Do we want to have to review every purchasing decision again or incur the hidden costs of changing suppliers and updating training sessions? Do we want to learn everything all over again? Are your staffing and financial models ready to add this additional stress?

5. In purchasing resources, are we returning to a point where we need to add additional evaluation time and complexity to our purchase and renewal decisions?

6. And when a particular vendor spends (maybe overspends two or three times more than the past) to acquire an exclusive on some content, how will they recover their additional costs? Who will they pass these on to? Will they assert that they can absorb these costs, and would you believe them?

7. We are also challenged with adapting to many of the great technological changes that allow us to create new transformational experiences for our users – citizens, librarians, students, researchers, learners, hobbyists and more. Isn’t this one of the places where you’d prefer to invest time, money and resources?

8. Is this the time to engage in a business practice of gaining exclusive control of certain electronic information content? Can you pay more? Can you add additional time commitments to your staff to adapt? Will you reward this behaviour with your business? Open competition that delivers the best products and features to libraries requires open markets and a level playing field."
(Stephen Abram)

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