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Licenses for library software: broken down

This page provides an explanation of the many types of software licenses that are available for libraries. ​


Library licences explained

When it comes to buying software for libraries, the standard method for acquiring software licenses has been to purchase a “in perpetuity” license. In other words, the licensee is granted unrestricted access to the program for their whole lifetime. Program licenses, in contrast to computers and other types of property, cannot often be transferred to another organization; in other words, you do not own the software, hence you cannot resell it used. The problem with the conventional model of a perpetual license is that it frequently provides software vendors with the financial incentive to continue pursuing new sales rather than concentrating on their current customers. This is because the traditional model of a perpetual license is known as “perpetual licensing.” You would also need to come up with a significant amount of money up front. ​


Subscriptions to Software as a Service (also known as SaaS)

Increasingly, library software vendors are switching to offering subscription licences renewable every 12 months and paid monthly or annually. These are more common for cloud or web-hosted library software, because the hosting charges are bundled in the complete package. The subscription contract typically includes a licence to use the software during the subscription period and the support and maintenance for the same period.

When everything is bundled together this is known as Software as a Service or SaaS. This gives the software vendor a regular income from existing customers and thus more incentive to keep them happy, while the customer has the opportunity to pay smaller amounts over the lifetime of the product. The advantage for you as a customers is that you don’t have to make large upfront payments or account for the expenditure over a number of years. This makes it easier to get higher management to agree to the purchase.

The key advantage of the subscription or SaaS model is that updates to your software are applied overnight by the software vendor and there is no need involvement by you or your IT. Overnight backups are usually also part of the package.


Explaining various license types:

Site licence

It is advantageous to grant access to all users funded by the organization because site licenses often only cover one installation of the program on a server. It may be extended to remote or home users, and the contract should make this explicit. The benefit for you is that you won’t need to keep track of how many library patrons have access to the program. When open to the public, it is also appropriate.

Concurrent licence

A concurrent license, sometimes known as a simultaneous license, is one that permits a set number of users to use the product concurrently. This license is helpful when just a subset of your users are anticipated to utilize the program at any given time, such as when 10% of users are anticipated to search the library catalog during busy hours. The only issue is that if user number 101 wants to utilize a concurrent licence for 100 users and is denied access, they will be informed that the system is busy. To ensure that the right amount of licenses are acquired, library employees must be ready to monitor usage.


Named user licence

A named user or personal licence is helpful when only particular users are anticipated to use the program since you only need to purchase those licences. It is given to specified users. When using the administrator features of the library system, these are frequently utilized by librarian supervisors and assistants. This kind of license can be used in conjunction with a concurrent license for library users or a site licence.