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Tips for working with your campus legal counsel

SERU: Shared Electronic Resource Understanding

If your institution requires contract approval by the Legal Counsel’s office, consider sharing the NISO SERU Recommended Practice with them and ask for institutional approval to join the registry as a SERU participant.

Here are some tips when making the case for SERU:

Accepted practice: Best Practice not a License

  • SERU is a nationally recommended NISO Best Practice that was developed by publishers and libraries to serve in place of a license.
  • NISO SERU has been in use since 2007.
  • Based on trust: Libraries and scholarly publishers have a long-standing non-litigious relationship. Ask if your library’s electronic resource licenses have caused legal action for your institution.
  • Fair Use retained: SERU relies on Copyright Law and a purchase document – so Fair Use rights are retained.
  • Vetted language: Language in SERU has been agreed to by publishers, librarians, and consortial representatives.

Workload relief:

  • SERU streamlines the library acquisition process. The existing workflow whereby every license is reviewed and negotiated may overwhelm both the legal counsel’s office as well as the library staff. How many licenses do you predict will need to be reviewed over the next 1-3 years? How will this impact the legal counsel’s office?
  • Importance of e-resources to your institution: What percentage of your collection is electronic? What trends do you see? Is your institution converting individual periodical subscriptions to electronic format, and/or contracting with many publishers for purchase or subscriptions to electronic books?

Widely adopted:

  • Publisher participants: SERU participants include over 70 publishers, including major publishers such as Springer and Taylor & Francis, University Presses, Societies and Associations, and many independent publishers.
  • Library and consortial participants: SERU participants include over 100 libraries and consortia including state and private institutions from every US region
  • Legal counsel approved: Legal counsels at these institutions have agreed that SERU is an acceptable process


  • Institution can choose to use standard licensing instead of SERU at any time, regardless of the status of the publisher or institution as a participant whenever that is preferred