Academic librarians reviewing their current licensing of databases and considering new subscription offerings have a new factor to consider. Several of the leading academic vendors in the information industry have begun opening their products to alumni/ae communities. This practice offers several advantages to vendors and librarians from enabling the library and its parent institution to strengthen ties with alumni who may become sources of future support to fortifying the curricular value of learning the types of databases offered by libraries. When it comes to reaching out to end users, ProQuest probably has the most aggressive package for an academic-oriented vendor in its Udini product. But SAGE Publications has a very promising arrangement for its product in 2013; EBSCOhost sells Academic editions for alumni; and JSTOR is rumored to be poised to bring its Pilot Alumni Project into primetime.
Alumni product offerings usually involve a subset of the content in the full on-campus services. ProQuest’s Udini Alumni Access Program offers full Udini coverage. The universities and colleges subscribing to the program pay an annual subscription fee. The fee will vary but runs in the area of $15,000. In return, alumni users will get full access with most of the per-item charges for special content paid by Udini individual end-users eliminated and even the scholarly articles with the highest charges reduced substantially.
The May 2012 NewsBreak ProQuest for Everyone: The Udini Service Officially Launches has background on Udini. A quote on pricing from that NewsBreak reads as follows:
When it comes to pricing, Udini divides items available from the Udini Store into standard articles, priced from $0.99 to $3.99, and specialty articles, priced at $4.99 to whatever. LaFauci explained that specialty articles were usually the premium content from scholarly science-technology-medicine publishers, the usual suspects, as well as the long-format dissertations. For a dissertation, ProQuest’s longstanding unique forte, he said the price was $37. However, he pointed out that they also offered a trial access service that would apply especially to dissertations. Users who find a dissertation of potential interest can spend $4.99 to access a version for reading only (no downloading, no printing) over a 72-hour period. If they then decide to buy the dissertation, the $4.99 will be discounted from the $37.
If the user chooses a subscription option, they get all the standard-priced articles included and a 20% discount off all the specialty articles. Subscription options include a project pass ($30 for 14 days) or a monthly ($30). Users get 5 free standard articles when they sign up.
Udini has a broad range of content, including more than 12,000 authoritative full-text sources, and 150 million articles from scholarly journals, trade publications, and dissertations. Most of the underlying technology comes from the Summon discovery service from ProQuest’s Serials Solutions unit. Udini’s primary market is the individual unaffiliated researcher.
Jane Burke, senior vice president strategic initiatives at ProQuest, indicated that university development offices were market targets as well as university libraries. “The major reason for development offices is closer engagement with alumni. More and more libraries are getting requests for the content available on campus. Tools people took for granted on campus, they are not finding available out in the big world. The alumni offices want to track alumni via email, so we try to set up access through their portals.”
Word-of-mouth (or word of email) still offers one of the best ways to promote any online product. If the alumni users of Udini start flashing the service to friends and colleagues, ProQuest may see some additional advantage that alumni programs tied to campus-only marketing may not be able to reach.
One of the difficulties in constructing successful alumni programs involves authentication. One academic librarian with whom we spoke pointed out that campus networks usually are not built to distinguish different types of access for different types of users. Alumni programs usually require a separate point of entry. However, in one very promising development, a publisher—not an aggregator of publisher content such as ProQuest—dramatically expanded its access and solved the authentication difficulty by a simple re-write of a contract clause.
As of 2013, all the academic subscribers to SAGE Publication’s Premier services can offer the service to alumni. This will cover all the content hosted on the SAGE Journals, SAGE Research Methods, and SAGE Knowledge platforms. All alumni registered with subscribing or purchasing libraries will be able to access all SAGE products including more than 645 scholarly and professional journals at no extra fee. The new license simply re-defines authenticated users as including alumni. By the way, SAGE clients who do not subscribe to the required Premier versions should contact SAGE and negotiate; SAGE is reportedly prepared to deal.
Commenting on the development, Nicky Whitsed, director of library services at The Open University, remarked, “We warmly welcome the extension of SAGE licenses to embrace alumni and hope that other publishers will extend their licenses in this way. This is an important development that supports our wish to foster continuing links with our alumni.”
For publishers interested in looking into SAGE’s innovation, the language it used in the new license was as follows:
“Authorized Users” shall mean individuals who are authorized by the Customer (which shall include those individuals authorized by the Institutions hereunder) to access the Customer’s information services whether on-site or off-site via Secure Authentication and who are affiliated with the Customer as a current student (undergraduates and postgraduates), employee (whether on a permanent or temporary basis), alumnus or contractor of the Customer. Individuals who are not a current student, employee or a contractor of the Customer, but who are permitted to access the Customer’s information services from computer terminals within the physical premises of the Customer (“Walk-In Users”) are also deemed to be Authorized Users, only for the time they are within the physical premises of the Customer. Walk-In Users may not be given means to access the Products when they are not within the physical premises of the Customer.
And SAGE is not requesting to receive any direct reports on alumni usage.
Daniel Dollar, the felicitously named head of collection development at Yale University, echoed the hope that other publishers would follow SAGE’s move. Yale and the Association of Yale Alumni have been involved in the JSTOR Pilot Alumni Project for several years. The program was launched in 2009 and now reaches 42 universities and colleges worldwide. Alumni from participating institutions gain full access to the same set of archive collection content available to all current students and faculty at their institutions. Interested parties should contact the Outreach & Participation team for more details.