Excel work sheets, Google Docs and mail correspondences. Those were the tools for handling digital text licenses in Danish public libraries only just a year ago. Today they have been replaced by the digital system ‘Consortia Manager’, a system that has proved that a broader perspective is the way to enhance the quality of digital text licenses offered by public libraries to their patrons.
The system ‘Consortia Manager’ was created when The Danish Digital Library (DDL) took over the purchase of digital text licenses for the libraries. In that connection, a general overview was needed in terms of the licenses; price movement, number of libraries included in the agreement etc. To make it easier both to administer the licenses, and to acquire the vcnecessary knowledge about them and thus be in a position to negotiate wisely about each one.
This tool is therefore a result of the efforts aimed at securing better agreements for the libraries. You are in a strong position of negotiation, when you are able very precisely and clearly to identify a certain license and for example compare it to the development of other licenses or draw conclusions about the actual use of the license.
It could be that as part of the agreement the libraries are also gaining the right to the materials’ front pages being used in marketing, or that improved metadata are made available. This will then be included in the description of those licenses which the libraries have access to via the system.
Enlightened choice of materials
In practice, the local libraries’ overview of the licenses has proved to be of considerable value. So, even though the tool came into being because of a need on behalf of the negotiators, the real gain has turned out to be libraries’ opportunity to gain insight into their own, local portfolios of text licenses in a clear and manageable way.
Right from the start of the project, the libraries were taken into consideration as users of the tool. Danish public libraries already had a reasonable portfolio of digital text licenses – with everything from lexica of online newspapers to foreign digital periodicals – with probably more to come. A bigger portfolio also means greater demands in terms of handling the licenses: Which licenses do we have, how much do they cost, and how often are they used? What about the ones, we don’t have – how often are they being used? Quite simply, the knowledge necessary to be able to make an enlightened choice of materials.
Active selection and de-selection
Today every library has an entry showing their own text licenses. Apart from the statistics that is under constant development, the libraries may also test other compositions of licenses within their budget. This can be done via a function that selects or deselects among all the text licenses on offer.
The function shows how the combinations can be effected within a given budget. Apart from that, the libraries can compare their usage of the individual licenses with the usage in other libraries.
These functions help to increase the awareness and sharpen focus on the possibilities available to the libraries. This became obvious in connection with a new license agreement on language courses, which had been finalised. Many libraries chose to subscribe to that, which was made possible because they had deselected others.
Growing interest in gaining more insight
The libraries were consulted when the system was being developed and recently the first user survey was conducted. It shows the users to be extremely satisfied with the system.
97 percent of the respondents said that they would recommend it to others with the same needs. Feedback like “It is a great help that all the information is gathered in one place” and “Renewing a license has become very easy” indicates that the system is a success with the libraries.
The user survey also showed that what is most wanted from the system is more and better statistics for the individual licenses. That is positive, because it shows that thec system has met a need for increased knowledge and insight, and that it is very much a question of creating a framework and highlighting the possibilities.
Interest has also been apparent abroad. In Sweden the system has already been taken into use, and South Africa is folowing suit during autumn 2015. USA, too, has expressed keen interest in learning about the possibility of introducing the system on American soil. This says something about the general need to improve this field and create the conditions for a better overview and thereby better agreements.
About Consortia Manager
ConsortiaManager has been operating in Denmark for almost a year and is a selfservice module for the libraries, which enables them to handle digital text licenses in an easy and accessible way. The module gives you an overview of the individual licenses and reminds you when, for example, renewals are due.
From the very beginning, the aim of the project was to create a tool, which can be uses by central negotiators of licenses and buyers at the local libraries. The tool is therefore constructed so that the libraries have their own profile with an overview of their personal licenses. At the same time DLL, who negotiates from central quarters, has a comprehensive view of the complete portfolio of text licenses for the Danish public libraries.
The system is developed in collaboration with The Danish Digital Library and the private partner Subscription People.