American Library Association tackles new challenges in the e-environment

Recent action from the publishing world in the e-book marketplace has re-ignited interest and sparked many questions from librarians, publishers, vendors, and readers. Two ALA member task forces — the presidential task force on Equitable Access to Electronic Content (EQUACC) and the E-book Task Force — were recently created to address these complex and evolving issues.  EQUACC met this week in Washington, D.C., to provide ALA with guidance and recommendations for a coordinated ALA response to the challenging issues.

In light of recent publisher changes affecting libraries’ ability to provide e-books to the public (e.g., restricting lending of e-books to a limited number of circulations) and the refusal of some publishers to sell e-content to libraries entirely, the task force will:

  • Work to establish meetings between ALA leadership and publisher and author associations to discuss model lending and purchase options for libraries.
  • Establish mechanisms for interactive and ongoing communication for ALA members to voice concerns and pose questions to ALA leadership.
  • Establish communication and solicit input with other ALA member divisions and units, including the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

In addition to the above, the task force recommends that ALA pursue the following:

  • Conduct an environmental scan to understand the current landscape and project future scenarios.
  • Work with appropriate partners within and outside of ALA to improve access to electronic information for all, with a particular focus on people with disabilities.
  • Identify and support new and emerging model projects for delivering e-content to the public.
  • Develop a national public relations and education campaign highlighting the importance of libraries as essential access points for electronic content.

ALA members and the public can communicate with ALA on these issues through a new website dedicated to the challenges and potential solutions in libraries for improved access to electronic content.  This site will be live within 10 days, and the URL to be announced at launch. These efforts reflect on libraries’ long-standing principles on equitable access to information, reader privacy, intellectual freedom, and the lawful right of libraries to purchase and lend materials to the public.

ALA calls upon all stakeholders to join us in crafting 21st century solutions that will ensure equitable access to information for all.

About Jenni Terry

5 comments

  1. As an author, I want my books to have as wide a distribution as possible. I totally disagree with the actions of some publishers. The attempts to prop up out dated business models by refusing to issue e-books to libraries, or worse, crippling those e-books, is a crime against literacy. Therefor, I offer a simple, direct solution;

    Go to the authors. Skip the publishers entirely, and take your case to the authors directly. Any author, but especially the e-published authors, should be thrilled at the idea of having their books listed among the thousands of books in a library catalog. It is more exposure for us, and brings works that might not be well known, to the reading public. I for one, would be happy to donate copies of my books to the ALA.

    It is also possible that once the publishers find out that the authors are ignoring them, they might just wake up and remember that they are in business to deliver reading material to as many people as possible. Greed has no place in literacy, and some people would do well to learn that lesson.

    Lark LaTroy
    Published Author
    Silver Publishing

  2. I feel like ALA should have had this task force in place years ago. If they had been proactively advocating for mutually beneficial licensing deals, this whole mess may have been avoided. Why wait until there’s a problem?

  3. That’s a good point. The e-book climate and issues around digital content in general are challenging to understand and yet more challenging to address in a way that will result in something useful for the library community. The task force may be late in forming, but it is made up of representatives from school, public, academic libraries as well as people with expertise in accessibility, licensing, and various technologies. It is certainly a main goal of the task force to ameliorate a difficult situation and develop lasting solutions.

  4. I agree that we are late to the party on this one – we should have seen it coming. This is really no different than having publishers expect that libraries will replace worn print copies if the books are still relevant. eBooks are the same commodity in a different format, though I agree that 26 circs is too low, A sane and rational discussion about this needs to be held and will require in-depth study by our finest minds, but I don’t see the publishers as being completely out of line for wishing to maintain their revenue streams. That’s what business is about and libraries are businesses, too – we don’t like having our budgets cut, either.

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