Licensing Webinar Offers Preview of New Certificate Program

Librarians are not lawyers, though they need to understand contracts. Librarians are not police officers, although they may help enforce proper usage of content and resources. And librarians are not professional negotiators, but they’re often held responsible for securing favorable terms from their information vendors.

How can librarians and information professionals learn to play these roles successfully? As of this month, they can enroll in SLA’s newest certificate program, Licensing Digital Content, taught by Lesley Ellen Harris of The program begins on October 28 and runs through December 6, although students have an additional six weeks after December 6 to complete the course requirements.

On October 7, Lesley—who is also the instructor for SLA’s popular certificate program in copyright leadership—provided a preview of the digital licensing certificate program by presenting a 30-minute webinar, “Digital Licensing Tips and Secrets for Information Professionals.” During the webinar, Lesley shared advice on everything from licensing lingo to negotiating contracts and explained the dos and don’ts of managing digital licensing for your organization.

“Licensing can be a language of its own,” she said. “Terminology is key, and you’ll need to learn to speak licensing language. Even words like licensor and licensee are important terms to understand. I usually tell people not to use those terms, because inevitably you’ll mix them up.”

Understanding the language is critical to negotiating licensing contracts, she said, even if you aren’t directly responsible for that function. And no matter who negotiates the contract, it should be written—if not by the vendor, then by the library or its parent organization.

“I highly recommend you always have a written agreement,” Lesley said. “Some vendors do not actually provide written agreements, but I would say, if they don’t provide one, you can. You can have your own standard license and offer it to vendors who don’t otherwise offer one.

“Another thing you can do is, at the beginning of negotiations . . . offer the vendor your license and say you’re trying to standardize all of your licenses so the terms and conditions are the same. They’ll probably say no, but I think it’s worth trying, and it’s a trend I would highly recommend.”

Once the agreement is finalized, librarians can help ensure that its terms and conditions are followed. But Lesley encouraged her audience to opt for guidance over enforcement.

“You may be responsible, to a degree, for ensuring that your constituents are using content in a legal manner, and that would mean according to the terms and conditions,” she said. “A tip right there would be, do not ever be the licensing police. That is not your job. You may agree to notify the vendor if the licensed content is being used beyond the perimeters of the license, but you’re not the police, and you don’t go out there and enforce the terms and conditions.”

The webinar was recorded and is available free on demand to SLA members. Visit for more information about this webinar and SLA’s other online and in-person learning opportunities.

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