The digital revolution has resulted in an important change in the way libraries procure access and store information available for use by other patrons. In the pre-Internet and pre-electronic days, libraries regularly purchased print copies of materials for their collections and patrons. Libraries owned physical copies of these materials. We are now witnessing a revolution in how information is acquired, stored and accessed. With this revolution comes a new set of administrative and legal issues libraries must face. No longer are librarians solely concerned about copyright law issues like photocopying in their libraries. Librarians have become negotiators and interpreters of legal agreements which open the door to a wide variety of electronic content for their patrons. Licensing electronic content is now an expected part of collection management, especially as more and more collections budgets are dedicated to serials available only in a digital format. Many librarians are already involved with licensing electronic or digital information, and many others will become more involved in this process in the near future.
Licensing electronic content rather than physical ownership of print copies raises a whole series of issues not previously experienced by library. Unlike sending a purchase order for a new print book or print periodical, licensing digital information often involves negotiating a license agreement or contract with the owner of the digital content for using your library. At the very least it involves understanding and interpreting such agreements, whether they are negotiated by a consortium on your library’s behalf, are nonnegotiable, or are individually negotiated by your library
One of the major changes in acquiring electronic content, as opposed to print journals, is that in many circumstances, libraries now pay for content they never physically acquired. For instance, a library pays for an online journal that it may never see print form. What is the library is paying for is access to that online journal, not physical ownership of something that it place on its shelves. In addition, the scope of that access or use of that online journal maybe more limited than the use of the print journal. For instance, it is not necessary to obtain permission to browse through a print journal, but permission maybe necessary to access online content.
Libraries are also very concerned about having access to archives of digital content. Where as a book may be kept and access from a bookshelf in definitely, access to digital content has a defined duration. All the pretty publishers are concerned about their work being photocopied, electronic publishers are even more threatened since it is so quick, easy, and inexpensive to make a copy of an electronic work. Controlling and monitoring electronic works is there for a much larger problem than in the print world. Publishers therefore use technologies such as password-protected access, IP protected access, and limitations on the number of simultaneous users, to try to ensure access is made by an authorized users only.