Public libraries join forces to demand better e-book accessibility for their customers

TORONTO, June 5, 2012 /CNW/ - The Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC), a coalition of Canada's large public libraries, along with many U.S. public libraries such as the New York Public Library, are putting forth their demands for changes to the way e-book content is purchased and delivered, in order to improve access for customers.

Libraries have a responsibility to advocate for the public and ensure that users have the same open, easy and free access to e-books that they have come to rely on with physical books.

They currently face two major challenges. The first is that a number of major publishers are not selling e-books to libraries.  The second is that the products currently offered by electronic content distributors, the intermediaries from whom libraries buy e-books, create a fragmented, disjointed and cumbersome user experience.  To correct this, e-content providers must be willing partners, and offer products that allow customers to:

  • Search and browse a single comprehensive catalogue with all the library's offerings together, including e-books, physical collections, programs and blogs. Currently, content providers often only allow searches within the products they sell, depriving users of a seamless and comprehensive library experience.
  • Place holds, check-out items, view availability, manage fines and receive communications within individual library catalogues or in the venue the library believes will serve them best, without having to visit separate websites (libraries, not distributers, should be enabled to manage all library interactions with customers).
  • Seamlessly enjoy a variety of e-content. To do this, libraries must be able to choose content, devices and apps from any provider or from multiple providers, without bundling that limits a library's ability to serve the content they purchase on platforms of their choice.
  • Download e-books that are compatible with all readers, from the Kindle to the Nook to the iPad and so on.

The following Canadian public libraries, which in total serve over 12.5 million people, are supporting this endeavour:

Toronto Public Library
Bibliothèques Montreal
Ottawa Public Library
Mississauga Library System
Edmonton Public Library
Hamilton Public Library
Fraser Valley Regional Library
Vancouver Public Library
Greater Victoria Public Library
Halifax Public Libraries
Markham Public Library
Vaughan Public Library
Vancouver Island Regional Library
Burlington Public Library
Kitchener Public Library
Saskatoon Public Library
Thunder Bay Public Library
Cambridge Public Library
Barrie Public Library
Bibliothèque municipale de Gatineau
Winnipeg Public Library
Regina Public Library

In order for libraries to continue to function as key providers of information to the public, these basic principles must be followed. The libraries who signed this agreement are committed to holding content providers to this standard, and will prioritize these requirements when acquiring e-books and other e-content.

This statement advances the work of the CULC e-book taskforce, which released its Vision Statement in August 2010. Further exploration of this issue has culminated in a shared set of requirements for the development of a digital repository for Canadian public libraries. CULC will publicly release these requirements to companies interested in developing a hosted service for a Canadian digital repository in June 2012. For more information, visit www.culc.ca/knowledge/ebooks/.

For further information:

Media contact:
Jefferson Gilbert, CAE
Executive Director
Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC)
416-699-1938 
1-866-211-2999
jgilbert@culc.ca