The public discourse about electronic publishing, as heard at scholarly and library gatherings on the topic of scholarly communications, has changed little over the past several years. Librarians and academics fret about the serials crisis, argue about the influence of commercial offshore publishers, wonder when the academic reward system will begin to take electronic publications into account, and debate what steps to take to rationalize copyright policy in our institutions. There is progress in that a wider community now comes together to ponder these familiar themes, but to those of us who have been party to the dialogue for some years, the tedium of ritual sometimes sets in.
At Yale, subject-specialist librarians talk to real publishers every day about the terms on which the library will acquire their electronic products: reference works, abstracts, data, journals, and other full-text offerings. Every week, or several times a week, we are swept up in negotiating the terms of licenses with producers whose works are needed by our students and faculty. Electronic publications are now a vital part of libraries' business and services. For example, at a NorthEast Research Libraries Consortium (NERL) meeting in February 1997, each of the 13 research library representatives at the table stated that his or her library is expending about 6-7% of its acquisitions budget on electronic resources.
This essay will offer some observations on the overall progress of library licensing negotiations. But the main point of this essay will be to make this case: in
ã 1999 by Ann Okerson. Readers of this article may copy it without the copyright owner's permission if the author and publisher are acknowledged in the copy and the copy is used for educational, not-for-profit purposes.
the real world of libraries, we have begun to move past the predictable, ritual discourse. The market has brought librarians and publishers together; the parties are discovering where their interests mesh; and they are beginning to build a new set of arrangements that meet needs both for access (on the part of the institution) and remuneration (on the part of the producer). Even though the prices for electronic resources are becoming a major concern, libraries are able to secure crucial and significant use terms via site licenses, use terms that often allow the customer's students, faculty, and scholars significant copying latitude for their work (including articles for reserves and course packs), at times more latitude than what is permitted via the fair use and library provisions in the Copyright Act of the United States. In short, institutions and publishers perhaps do not realize how advanced they are in making a digital market, more advanced at that, in fact, than they are at resolving a number of critical technological issues.