Licensing and Negotiating


Now that we know the basic structure and contents of a license for electronic resources, we can discuss the negotiation process.

We know that because of projects like SERU, some licensing may be avoided, and projects like LIBLICENSE will help streamline the process because they provide helpful boilerplate. When we enter negotiations for some products, especially big ticket products, it's helpful to know what that process might look like, and of course, how to go about it.

Principled Negotiation

Abbie Brown (2014) offers a number of great tips in her talk, and I want to highlight a few things.

First, her discussion of principled negotiation and assertive communication is important. Principled negotiation is about keeping negotiations professional, even when it feels personal or when something triggers our anger in the licensing process. Before you enter negotiations, keep in mind the objective you want to attain; and use reason, creativity, and problem solving skills to get there.

Assertive Communication

Assertive communication is being willing to express yourself. This is not the same as being aggressive, which is not warranted. Brown's (2014) suggestion to have other people look at your emails, that might have been written in anger, before sending is golden.


Brown (2014) also discusses, based on her experience, some stereotypes that get in the way of negotiating. These include:

  • Librarian stereotypes
  • Library stereotypes
  • Vendors stereotypes:

Stereotypes, from either direction, should be avoided. People exist on each side of the table, and although each side has their own self-interests, stereotypes prevent connection. And reflecting on any stereotypes we have also reduces anxiety in the negotiation process.


As a negotiator, Brown (2014) described having to work with lots of people, of having to negotiate with people in her own library. This is a great insight. It's very important to talk through things with colleagues and vendors.

Put it in Writing

Brown's (2014) point about putting things in writing will help you. You want to write write well and succinctly, but if it's in writing, then it's documented and can be easily archived and retrieved.

Negotiation Workflows

Smith and Hartnett (2015) provide a real world example of the negotiating process that includes a work flow around licensing. Remember, document everything and revisit your documentation. Importantly, use that documentation to formalize checklists. Having a workflow in place around licensing will help make your work more efficient and help ensure that all bases are covered.

Dygert and Barrett (2016) cover the specifics of licensing: what to look for, what shouldn't be given away, how to negotiate principally, and more. Likewise, Dunie (2015) gets into the specifics of the negotiation process, which includes definitions of terms, business models, and strategies.


Becoming a skillful negotiator takes practice, but this section will help prepare you to prepare for the process. The main point I want to make is this: if you find yourself in a position where one of your job responsibilities is to negotiate with vendors for e-resources (or for anything else), then come back to these sources of information and spend additional time studying them and taking notes on them. Sources like these, and others like them, such as those listed by Garofalo (2017), in the literature, will prepare you if you study them. Being prepared is the most important step.

Readings / References

Brown, A. (2014). Negotiation of E Resource licensing pricing terms. (2014, September 17).

Dunie, M. (2015). Chapter 3. Negotiating with content vendors: An art or a science? Library Technology Reports, 51(8), Article 8.

Dygert, C., & Barrett, H. (2016). Building your licensing and negotiation skills toolkit. The Serials Librarian, 70(1–4), 333–342.

Garofalo, D. A. (2017). Tips from the trenches. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 29(2), 107–109.

Smith, J., & Hartnett, E. (2015). The licensing lifecycle: From negotiation to compliance. The Serials Librarian, 68(1–4), 205–214.

Additional References

ALA. (2006, August 25). Libraries and licensing.

Chesler, A., & McKee, A. (2014). The shared electronic resource understanding (seru): Six years and still going strong. Information Standards Quarterly, 26(04), 20.