The Number of Licenses for Electronic Content Held by Libraries Triples from 2000 to 2007

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The Survey of Library Database Licensing Practices, a 100+ page study, with more than 400 tables and charts, presents benchmarking data enabling librarians to compare their library's practices to peers in many areas related to licensing. Metrics provided include: percentage of licenses from consortiums, spending on consortium dues, time spent seeking new consortium partners, number of consortium memberships maintained; growth rate in the percentage of licenses obtained through consortiums; expectation for consortium purchases in the future; number of licenses, growth rate in the number of licenses, spending on licenses for directories, electronic journals, e-books, and magazine/newspaper databases; future spending plans on all of the above; price inflation experienced for electronic resources in many subject and resource areas, and much more.

Primary Research Group has published The Survey of Library Database Licensing Practices (ISBN#: 1-57440-093-2). The study presents data from 90 libraries -- corporate, legal, college, public, state, and non-profit libraries -- about their database licensing practices.

The study found rising spending on electronic resources, and an increasing percentage of library purchases made through consortiums. The mean number of independent licenses for electronic content held by the libraries in the sample tripled from 2000 to 2007. Consortium purchases accounted for a mean of 30% of the database licenses by the libraries in the sample, a figure that was much higher for higher education libraries. College/university libraries' single largest consortium partner alone accounted for a mean of just over 41% of contracts, twice as much as for public or government and non-profit libraries. Overall, survey participants reported spending a mean of $7,300 on dues and membership fees to consortiums.

Ebook spending had risen rapidly. Mean spending on ebooks by the corporate and legal libraries in the sample was $48,000.

Libraries in the sample were not spending much on legal help for licensing issues, and only 7% of the libraries in the sample had ever been threatened by a publisher or information vendor with any form of legal action for contract abrogation. Many of the issues that once separated publishers and libraries appear to be moving towards equilibrium if not resolution. Just over 14% of all libraries surveyed indicated that they extensively used free access to back issues of some journals that have an "embargo" period before articles become available without charge.

A mean of just over 24% of the electronic or electronic/print journal subscriptions maintained by survey participants guaranteed perpetual access to archives.

Nonetheless, some dissatisfaction persisted. Librarians in the sample estimated that just over a third of the sets of access and usage statistics they received from vendors of electronic information could be considered "highly reliable." Ten percent of all libraries surveyed reported that they had ever canceled a content license because of the provider's inability to effectively deal with service interruption issues.

Price increases were also hefty.

Libraries reported mean price increases for full text and newspaper and magazine databases of 9.43% in the past year while the mean reported change in the price of medical and biochemical information was 8.13.

The 100+ page study, with more than 400 tables and charts, presents benchmarking data enabling librarians to compare their library's practices to peers in many areas related to licensing. More than half of the participating libraries are from the USA, and the rest are from Canada, Australia, the UK, and other countries. Data is broken out by type and size of library, we well as for overall level of database expenditure. For more information go to

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