A New Way of Looking at Journal Subscriptions

What was your favorite takeaway from Information Outlook last year? For Nathan Rosen, an experienced knowledge specialist and the author of more than 200 articles and books on research tools and techniques, online social media, and library administration, it was an analysis of best practices in journal renewal negotiation.

Money, while it may be the root of all evil, is critical to every library’s operation. Historically, a significant portion of every library’s budget has been allocated to journals, and most librarians have taken it as a given item based upon list prices.

Jamie Marie Aschenbach opens our eyes to a new way of looking at journal subscriptions and vendor relationships in her article, “Negotiating Your Best Journal Deals Yet,” in the July-August 2017 issue of Information Outlook. Aschenbach speaks from many years of successful experience with vendor negotiation at Southern Connecticut State University and at Florida Coastal School of Law. As both a librarian (with an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh) and a lawyer (a JD from Seattle University), she brings a unique perspective to contract negotiations.

Starting back in 2014, she writes, the librarian community became aware “that different libraries were paying different prices for the same access.” Getting to know all the price facts is difficult, however, partly because many publishers’ contracts include a clause prohibiting disclosure of the terms.

Aschenbach starts from the premise that to get a better deal, we must (1) become better negotiators and (2) remember that we are partners with vendors instead of adversaries. She sets out a basic framework and steps that should be taken to ensure that all the bases are covered and to promote a clear understanding of the expectations of each party.

Applying the DATA method (discover, analyze, transform, and approach), Aschenbach walks us through the critical questions and considerations that should be taken into deliberation before approaching the vendor and during the negotiation process itself. She concludes by offering a few hints to vendors about how they can help librarians while at the same time helping themselves. Critical points in this respect include avoiding cold calling and showing the added value of the information service or product.

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