Consider volunteering for ReadersFirst

ReadersFIrst is an international coalition of 300 libraries seeking to provide e-book readers with the same open, easy and free access to content that readers have with physical books.

ReadersFirst is an international coalition of 300 libraries seeking to provide e-book readers with the same open, easy and free access to content that readers have with physical books.

While at ALA Midwinter, I spoke with Michael Blackwell, director of the St Mary’s County Library, about ReadersFirst, an informal organization of librarian volunteers interested in providing outstanding user focused e-book service. ReadersFirst has been around since 2012, but for those who might be unaware of their efforts, here’s the scoop:

ReadersFirst is an international coalition of some 300 libraries that believes that librarians have a responsibility to provide library e-book readers with the same open, easy and free access to content they have with physical books. They advocate for a simpler, more streamlined and effective library e-book experience. For ReadersFirst, the library catalog should be the source for all transactions, allowing content from all vendors to be accessed on any device, ultimately by the adoption of standardized e-books formats and APIs. Their work began with an evaluation of library e-book providers. They then developed principles that they hoped all vendors could endorse, and approached vendors about platform changes and support for library-led initiatives, such as SimplyE, LibrarySimplified, the Library E-Content Access Project, and Open Books Initiative.

Moving forward, ReadersFirst hopes to establish themselves as an official non-profit (currently they run as an all-volunteer organization under the aegis of the New York Public Library). In addition, their plans include the development of partnerships with other organizations to improve and expand the library e-book experience, create standards which publishers, vendors and libraries can use to ensure interoperability, engage with academic library e-book concerns, and update our Guide to Library e-book Vendors.

Sound like something you might be interested in? Here’s your chance because ReadersFirst is seeking new members. There is no fee to join. Libraries may become involved in two ways. Libraries may simply state that they support ReadersFirst principles. Then you will be added to the list of members and your library director—or director’s designee, meaning you—may sit in on biannual virtual updates. In addition to joining, you can become part of a working group and contribute to the combined pool of thoughts and expertise.

If interested in either type of membership, please email Michael Santangelo, Electronic Resources Coordinator for BookOps–Library Services Center (michaelpsantangelo@bookops.org). If you have questions about ReadersFirst, please email Michael Blackwell, Director, St Mary’s County Library (mblackwell@stmalib.org).

About Carrie Russell

Carrie Russell is the Director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books and other public policy issues. She has a MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a MA in media arts from the University of Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at crussell@alawash.org.

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