February 15, 2013
On Widening, More Likely Than Bridging, Any Existing In-House Content-Distribution Divide
Linking librarians to IT adds a necessary quality to the negotiation of contracts for online research services. An emphasis on the content delivered via the contract demands librarian input. They will have worked with the practice groups and can build on these relationships to understand which resources are necessary to maintain a high quality practice. The librarian’s task will be to consolidate this information across the firm and make it possible for the IT Department to negotiate a contract from a content point of view. Here, too, there will be a return on investment. A low cost contract without value adds expense.
Too often the library director becomes embroiled as an adversary in the negotiation process. This compromises the librarian’s relationship with the vendor and jeopardizes the negotiating process. Knowledge about content and lawyer demand is not the same as knowledge about pricing. And while the IT Department may need help with both the pricing terms and the negotiation process, that help will not come from the library. The vendor relationship demanded in the negotiation process is different from the relationship expected when the contract is in place and services are being delivered. Nothing should jeopardize the service delivery, which should be spelled out by the terms of the contract.
Understanding this, it is a gift to librarians to limit their involvement in contract negotiations. They can pass on an understanding of what the firm demands and force the vendor to consider the stake they have in the next contract with the firm. The vendors need to be accountable for the real relationship of pricing and content to contract terms. With that in mind, IT can demand a contract that has no surprises ahead. -- Nina Cunningham, Leveraging the Assets of the Law Library, (LJN's Legal Tech Newsletter, Feb. 2013, republished here).
Really? Or to quote Greg Lambert, "Um, thanks?" (Emphasis not added.)
Lambert adds "My own thoughts on vendor negotiations, and what I'm hoping where Cunningham is intending to go with this argument, is that there is some value in negotiating with the vendors in a unified way." There certainly is some value. But not, in my opinion, by way of the over-generalized role characterizations in Cunningham's far too simplified recipe.
For much more about this and other topics addressed in Cunningham's article, see Lambert's Are IT and Library "Logical Partners" in Leveraging Library Assets? Highly recommended. Cunningham's Leveraging the Assets of the Law Library, of course, is also highly recommended. [JH]