The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the National Information Standards Organization a grant to support the encoding of a collection of template licenses for e-resources into the ONIX for Publications Licenses (ONIX-PL) format. The encodings will be deposited into the GOKb and KB+ knowledgebase for free distribution to the library, publishing, and library systems community. The deposited encodings—made available under a Creative Commons Public Domain (CC-0) license—will allow libraries that license electronic content to import the template licenses into their own electronic resource management systems for further local customization to match their negotiated license and implementation. The project will also fund publicly available training resources that will inform community members on how to use those encodings for their own purposes.

JISC Collections, a division of the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) that manages electronic content acquisitions for member institutions of higher learning in the UK, has already encoded all of the licenses for JISC Collections-subscribed content and deposited them in their KnowledgeBase Plus (KB+) database. While KB+ has proven a useful tool for institutions in the UK, it has not moved beyond this venue because the encodings produced by the JISC Collections are restricted to JISC members’ usage. To encourage ONIX-PL adoption and the use of encoded licenses, JISC Collections provided additional funding to support the project and provide training in the encoding format and the ONIX-PL Editing software.

“The Global Open Knowledgebase (GOKb) is an element of the larger Kuali OLE initiative to provide open source management systems to the library and academic communities,” explains Nettie Lagace, NISO’s Associate Director for Programs. “Now that the GOKb system is rapidly advancing, there is an opportunity to populate the system with useful library management information, such as these template license encodings. Much like the success that the KB+ project has had in the UK, the GOKb project has the potential to advance the state of library encodings in the broader library community.”

“NISO has contracted with Selden Lamoureux to obtain the template licenses, encode them in ONIX-PL format, and deposit the files in the GOKb and KB+ knowledgebases,” states Todd Carpenter, NISO’s Executive Director. “Selden has a long career working with electronic resource management issues, licensing, and license encoding as Electronic Resources Librarian at both North Carolina State University (NCSU) and at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was instrumental in developing the NISO SERU (Shared Electronic Resource Understanding) Recommended Practice, was a key leader in NISO’s work while she was at NCSU, and served as co-chair of NISO’s SERU initiative.”

“ONIX-PL is elegant but very complex, since it’s designed to describe the nuances of licenses which are extremely variable,” explains Selden Lamoureux, Principle at SDLinforms and the consultant for this project. “The use of the ONIX-PL standard to encode e-resource licenses has suffered from a ‘Catch-22’ situation. Publishers and librarians have little incentive to invest the time and effort to become proficient at ONIX-PL encoding until there is a demonstrated benefit. Systems developers have not prioritized implementation of ONIX-PL formatted licenses in ERM systems because there was no source of encoded licenses to import. The creation and availability of these template licenses will encourage the use and adoption of the ONIX-PL standard, which, in turn, will lead to greater ease and efficiencies in managing e-resources.”

“To ensure the use of these encodings and ongoing sustainability of the project, NISO will be producing at least four recorded 60-to-90-minute video training sessions,” states Juliana Wood, NISO Educational Programs Manager. “The training will show librarians how to export a template license from GOKb+, import it into an ERM system, and customize the template to match an organization’s specific license terms. Some training will be directed towards publishers, explaining how to encode using ONIX-PL and deposit those encodings into GOKb and KB+. Thus publishers will be able to update their own template licenses as needed. The training materials will be available from the NISO website under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY).”

More information, including the project proposal, is available on the NISO website at:



Cynthia Hodgson

Technical Editor / Consultant

National Information Standards Organization