SPEC Kit 316: Evaluating E-resources  · 17
Various licensing terms are considered important
to libraries; however, seventeen percent of consortia
and thirty-one percent of individual libraries do not
use any standard licensing terms or model licenses
for e-resources. Also, despite various legal and other
considerations in licensing, cost was the only criterion
considered a deal breaker by a significant percent-
age of survey respondents. Further, about one-third
are not yet using an electronic resource management
system and the majority of individual libraries do not
use the National Information Standards Organization
Shared E-Resource Understanding (NISO SERU),
which could provide a valid alternative to a license
These shortcomings not only open the potential for
wasted staff time and poor decision making, they also
carry potential legal ramifications, due to the nature
of contractual licensing.
If ARL member libraries’ expenditures on e-re-
sources were negligible, the deficiencies mentioned
above might not be important or worth mentioning,
but preliminary 2008–2009 data shows that the uni-
versity libraries spent well in excess of $741,000,000 on
e-resources. However, the lack of established policies,
processes, and procedures for the overall assessment
of e-resources puts libraries at risk for financial loss
in terms of finances and staff time. Also, by entering
into contracts without first negotiating and, if neces-
sary, establishing and/or removing issues concerning
applicable law, deal-breaking language, indemnifi-
cation issues, renewal periods, and so forth, librar-
ies are rendering themselves vulnerable and putting
themselves at the mercy of vendors. Legal crises and
lawsuits concerning contract violations do not appear
to have occurred, but this should not let these libraries
become complacent.
The findings of the Evaluating E-resources survey
should be considered a call for concerted communica-
tion, organization, and action among those responsi-
ble for the acquisition of e-resources in ARL libraries. 
In order to improve operational efficiencies and to
maximize their effectiveness, research libraries must
recognize as essential and establish as their highest
priority the need to:
Develop and create policies for the acquisi-
tion of e-resources, both those acquired
through consortia and those purchased
Create standardized methodologies that
meaningfully accommodate the assessment
of those resources described above;
Train all library staff who manage and
engage in contractual relations with vendors
in the importance of contract negotiation;
Share their assessment strategies with other
research libraries;
Collaborate and cooperate in sharing not
only policies and strategies but also relevant
operational and best practices data;
Coordinate in the development of system-
wide evaluative standards.
Should these tasks be undertaken successfully,
it is hoped they will move research libraries to a fu-
ture defined by a shared understanding and a con-
sistent implementation of best practices in evaluating
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