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OCLC: Public libraries to lead initiative to ensure public access to digital content

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded a $99,957 grant to OCLC for a new initiative, “The Big Shift: Advancing Public Library Participation in Our Digital Future.” The purpose of the grant is to more fully understand the challenges that U.S. public libraries face in providing e-book content to borrowers, as they ensure that all Americans continue to have access to commercially produced content through their local public libraries, even as formats change.

OCLC will partner with the American Library Association (ALA) and the Public Library Association (PLA) to review the e-book landscape and jointly develop recommendations for managing the e-book environment, in order to ensure adequate public access to these emerging resources.

Research indicates that libraries are at a tipping point in e-content investment, as the percentage of e-book and e-journal collection expenditures continues to steadily outgrow print books and journals each year–and is likely to increase exponentially with the rapid growth in e-book adoption.

  • The number of public libraries that offer e-books has doubled in the past five years–to 76 percent from 38 percent, according to a new ALA report. Thirty-nine percent of libraries also offer e-readers for check-out to their patrons.
  • E-books dominate public library concerns, and are the most popular new initiative of this year, according to an OCLC membership survey.
  • In 2011, public library e-book collections increased a staggering 183 percent, according to Library Journal’s EBook Penetration & Use in Public Libraries.
  • From 1999–2009, e-resources as a percentage of total collection expenditures more than doubled, from 5.4 percent to 12 percent, according to IMLS.

Visit OCLC’s website for more.

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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