Gavia Libraria

Germany, Finland, and France

Keeping up with the news…

Elsevier has extended Big Deals at German institutions that would otherwise have expired due to contracts ending. This is a not-uncommon courtesy in cases of tardy or mildly-delayed (but otherwise normal, that is, big-pig–advantageous) contract negotiations, but the Loon does not think the Germany situation falls into either of those categories.

Elsevier just blinked.

The big pigs generally do not blink. They are happy to cut off access such that faculty turn viciously on their librarians, or panicky librarians fall all over themselves to make unwise promises, or both. These all-too-common phenomena help big pigs along in the Great Game, not least by encourageant les autres.

Elsevier blinked, as best the Loon can tell, because Elsevier did not expect Germany to follow any of the usual scripts for access loss. German faculty accept the situation. German librarians are in the catbird seat. Should access be cut off (as Jon Tennant pointed out on Twitter), German academe will shrug and go on its merry way, which would be a startling slap in the face to the perception that Big Deals in general, and Elsevier’s Big Deals in particular, are indispensable. A greater Great Game-changer the Loon is hard-pressed to imagine.

(The Loon notes in passing that the Great Game is in large part a game of large research institutions and large consortia. Many small and/or teaching-focused institutions have always known that Big Deals are dispensable! They have never been able to afford them!)

Unfortunately, the Loon’s best guess based on this communiqué is that Finland has folded its hand. The Loon would be delighted to be wrong about this, and may yet be proved so! The silence from FinELib on contract terms and the status of negotiations, however, is not encouraging; silence is a strong indicator that the big pigs have the upper hand.

We may have a new player on the scene in 2018, however: France. Benoît R. Kloeckner told the Loon on Twitter that the French national consortium Couperin, in collaboration with certain French research institutions, is about to take Springer on. The Loon will keep a beady red eye on this—easier for her than Germany has been, as she can read French tolerably well.

One last worthwhile tidbit: “The Dutch Approach to Achieving Open Access.” This short article contains a puzzle-piece the Loon had not had: the groundbreaking VSNU negotiations were fronted by university presidents, not librarians. About this, the article states, “But it also means that libraries are no longer the sole and more or less independent negotiators in the process with publishers. At the start this was subject to discussions within the library community, and it took us some time to be comfortable with this.”

The Loon doesn’t wonder at that—librarians always feel the sword of Damocles suspended over our necks—but she believes Dutch librarians were right to step back, this time. The subtext was “think you can push our librarians around? you’ll have to come through us first!” and until the big pigs thoroughly internalize this message, which will likely take several Netherlands/Germany-style Great Game defeats, sending in the big brass is a perfectly reasonable, even necessary, approach.

2 thoughts on “Germany, Finland, and France

  1. Sylvain Ribault

    I would not be too optimistic about Couperin’s negotiations with Springer or anyone else. Couperin has not done its homework of building support in the research community, and some of the participating institutions are not prepared for a no deal scenario. On top of that, Couperin’s leadership does not seem to have a clear vision of the problem. See my account of a talk by Couperin’s president here:


    1. Library Loon Post author

      The Loon does not expect every negotiation to be what a hardline open-access advocate (such as herself) would consider successful. Sometimes progress happens inch by inch.

      Thank you very much for the link; the Loon had not seen it, and it is fascinating. As for Couperin — that they are feeling pressure to align publicly with Germany and against Elsevier is progress of a sort. Not enough progress to be sure… but something that can be built on.