23:1 (2008:03) Other Serials News: SERU

February 20, 2008 at 4:58 pm | Posted in Other Serials and E-Resources News | Leave a comment
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SHARED UNDERSTANDING FOR ELECTRONIC RESOURCES (SERU)
Presenters: Judy Luther, Co-Chair of the NISO SERU Working Group and President of Informed Strategies; Seldon Lamoureux, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Member of the Working Group; and Tina Feick, Swets.
Reported by Morag Boyd

[Presented at the Serials Standards Update Forum at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, January 13, 2008.]

The session was an informal dialog with the audience about the status of SERU (Shared Understanding for Electronic Resources), a best practice to which content providers and libraries can mutually agree and therefore forego the need for a license agreement in an electronic resource purchase. SERU instead calls up copyright law and contract law, both well established and understood in our community, to govern these transactions. The SERU website is the best source for information: http://www.niso.org/committees/ SERU/

The panel briefly described the development of SERU as the outcome of a desire by all involved parties to simplify electronic resource transactions, which are frequently time-consuming and expensive on all sides. Luther updated the current status of SERU, which ended the trial period on December 20, 2007. At this point, the development is essentially complete. The current document is scheduled to go through formal approval this spring, after which formal implementation will begin.

The panel used polling questions to ascertain the composition and previous knowledge of SERU of the audience. Most of the audience already knew about SERU. Publishers, vendors, and librarians were all represented in the audience. Only a few of the audience members had relied on SERU rather than a license agreement for an actual purchase, but those who had related anecdotes about the speed and simplicity of these transactions compared to a licensing process. The majority of the audience was interested in using SERU for electronic resource transactions.

The general sense was that SERU guidelines have the potential to be widely adopted. Both the panel and the audience were interested in how implementation would be carried out and how it might affect them. The panel wanted to know if barriers to using SERU had come up during the trial period. The “draft” status was identified as the main barrier to using. The second barrier was lack of awareness. Discussion of awareness lead to the idea of preparing documentation targeted at specific audiences. The need to explain SERU in legal terms to libraries’ institutional counsels and purchasing officers was particularly identified.

Because everyone is so accustomed to a license agreement, there was a sense of not knowing how to use SERU instead of the license to complete a transaction. Luther and Lamoureux noted that promotion of SERU is in the planning phases, but they will be gathering testimonials and writing Q&A documents to address implementation. Feick suggested that subscription agents would be able to clearly identify resources available under SERU guidelines to their customers. As the purchase order is the official instrument for purchase under SERU guidelines, there was also discussion about making minor modifications or clarifications on the purchase order.

The panel took the opportunity to ask the audience if they had any promotional ideas. The concept of a logo with a handshake theme seemed popular as it highlights the return to a mutual understanding. The idea of a logo that could be included on publisher websites, in vendor and subscription agent databases, and on purchasing forms was seen as an effective way to identify SERU participants.

The liveliest discussion stemmed from an audience question about interlibrary loan (ILL) from electronic resources. As SERU relies on copyright law, the panel urged the community to look to that established mechanism to answer this question. The discussion also highlighted the current practice in many libraries of not fulfilling ILL requests from electronic resources, even though many license agreements do allow this practice. As many of the library people in the audience were from other areas of the library, there was discussion about the need to work with ILL to educate them about the changes in industry best practices, particularly if SERU becomes widely used.

In addition to featuring a timely topic, this event marked the first time the Serials Standards Update Forum has been held at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Organized by the ALCTS Continuing Resources Section Serials Standards Committee, the forums have been regularly held at the Annual Conference. Due in part to the sponsorship of Swets, the committee decided to add a second forum at Midwinter. SERU proved to be a timely and interesting topic for the first Midwinter Serials Standards Update.

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