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SERU Problem Statement

NOTE: The material below is historical in nature, created in 2006-2007 when SERU was first underway as a NISO Recommended Practice. It should be used for informational purposes only.

The current process of customer-by-customer, bi-laterally negotiated formal legal contracts increases the cost of sales for both libraries and publishers and delays access for users at subscribing institutions. In some circumstances bilateral negotiation of a formal license agreement is in the interest of the publisher, the library, or both, but as the number of electronic information products expands and a lower end of the market is increasingly developed, many question whether universal, bi-lateral license negotiations are scalable. 

Discussions with both publishers and librarians revealed a shared desire to create a new approach that involves lower overhead. Various approaches to streamlining negotiations have been tried, including the distribution of model licenses and the development by some libraries of their own standard license. While these licenses have provided a useful starting point for negotiations and have helped clarify the interests of the library community, there remains a strong sense that significant problems with the bi-lateral license negotiation persist.

On the side of content providers, some publishers have ceased to negotiate licenses -- seemingly having simply given up on licensing and selling their e-resource products with no licenses, relying instead on existing law and their faith in community norms. Many share a perception that a negotiated license is expected by the library community for all electronic products.

At the same time, libraries struggle to manage large portfolios of licenses, to negotiate consistent terms, and to educate new publishers launching e-resources. Access to purchased resources can be significantly delayed by protracted license negotiations.

The SERU trial phase -- from June 20 - December 20, 2007 -- met with great success, culminating in the final approval of SERU: A Shared Electronic Resource Understanding as part of its Recommended Practice series (NISO-RP-7-2008 -- available as PDF here).