HKN Procurement of Health Information Best Practices

Subject Matter Experts

HKN is a library consortium managed by librarians. As Health subject matter experts, HKN has the competencies to acquire and license electronic information resources. The selection of resources to be acquired is based on the combined knowledge of the University of Alberta and University of Calgary librarians and the research and information needs of its clients. HKN ensures that clients have continuous, uninterrupted access to information resources. HKN acquires rights to access electronic resources by negotiating licenses with publishers and vendors. Business drivers in acquiring these rights are:

  • access to content that meets client needs
  • access for a maximum number of users
  • fair pricing and value for dollar
  • authorized usage terms
  • accountability for acquisition budget expenditures

Knowledge of Publishing Industry Practices

The intellectual property rights of a publication belong to only one publisher. There are no two publishers that publish the same journal or the same book. Given that each publication is unique, from a procurement perspective this content can be considered sole source.Industry practice is for librarians and publishers to negotiate the terms and price of licenses. Negotiation is required to ensure libraries obtain fair pricing and value for dollar.

HKN knows and understands the publishing industry and the scholarly communication cycle. HKN understands the roles of the various players in the publishing environment – publishers (commercial, society, for-profit, not-for-profit), vendors, subscription agents, etc. HKN follows library best practice and is responsible for:

  • negotiating licenses with publishers
  • managing the license throughout its life cycle
  • establishing and maintaining mutually-beneficial working relationships with publishers
  • communicating with the publisher regularly to resolve client access issues and ensure quality service

Leadership in Negotiations

  • Direct negotiations around the price of content are critical to ensure that libraries are paying a fair price. Negotiations are critical, especially for electronic journal packages where there is no published list price and contract restrictions prevent libraries from freely sharing pricing information. The best strategy that libraries have developed to control double digit price increases is through direct negotiation.
  • Other terms in the license also need to be negotiated to ensure that libraries have the best licensing conditions. Terms include: timely support from the vendor, the addition/deletion of titles, formats and contents of statistical reports, permanent access to electronic titles
  • As a consortium, HKN extends the reach of libraries' acquisition dollars, and significantly increases access to information for its clients.


All HKN license agreements are signed by the partner universities, the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, on behalf of HKN subscribers. As a partnership, HKN is able to take advantage of the expertise of the licensing librarians at each university. This multi-disciplinary approach mitigates the risk to the signing partners, and ensures the terms of the agreements are appropriate for the subscribers.

Resources are selected in a number of different ways:

  • One of the two partner universities requests a quote for a specific resource. HKN then negotiates consortium pricing with vendor/publisher and presents to subscribers.
  • Subscribers request a quote for a resource. If no consortia price model is in place, HKN negotiates consortia pricing and presents to subscribers.
  • HKN solicits interest from partner universities and subscribers by way of a formal or informal survey.
  • Offers are sent to HKN office from vendors and presented to subscribers.
  • Shared purchases are explored through partnership opportunities with consortia in other jurisdictions.
  • Where a resource is available on multiple platforms for which HKN already has consortia discounts in place, HKN will negotiate with all applicable vendors and present its subscribers and partner universities with the available options.
  • The terms of the vendor license agreements are then reviewed by the licensing librarians at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta to ensure they comply with the partner university requirements. Each license is signed by the University Librarian/Vice Provost, or designate, of each university on behalf of the subscribing party. No other individual has the authority to sign these agreements.

*adapted from the Federal Science eLibrary "Role of Librarians in the Procurement Process for Electronic Information Resources"