Today’s Libraries Connect (E-)Readers butFace Roadblocks
Guest Editorial by Mary Jo Ryan,Nebraska Library CommissionNook. Kindle. iPad. Your local library. You’veheard of all of these and you know that all four de-liver digital content. But, according to the Pew In-ternet Project, most people don’t know that U.S.public libraries provide ebooks and other digitalresources. They are unaware of the fact that to-day’s libraries offer books in a variety of formats—and so much more! Our Nebraska libraries contin-ue to change and offer new services and pro-grams to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities. The number of Nebraska public li-braries offering e-books has more than doubled inthe last two years, with fifty percent now offeringthe service. This is just the latest chapter in thestory of our commitment to reading, knowledge,imagination, and lifelong learning for all Nebras-kans.Libraries help readers find authors, and authorsfind readers. We do this by selecting locally rele-vant materials, and through programs like OneBook One Nebraska, as well as other collabora-tions with authors and publishers. Libraries alsoare engaged in growing and supporting the nextgenerations of readers – encouraging childrenand young adults to read for fun and for successin school and life. But libraries face roadblocks.For the first time ever, we are barred from pur-chasing some materials our communities deserve.Right now, several of the largest trade publishers(known as “the Big Six”) refuse to sell e-books topublic libraries. As a result, Nebraskans are notgetting a fair deal. If our libraries’ digital book-shelves mirrored the
New York Times
fiction best-seller list, we would be missing half of our collec-tion on any given week due to these publishers’policies.On the other hand, other publishers – includinghundreds of smaller, independent presses and arising tide of self-published authors – do under-stand the value of placing books in libraries. A re-cent report from
found that morethan half of all library users report purchasingbooks by an author they discovered through thelibrary. Publishing is not just another industry. Ithas special and important significance to society.Libraries complement and actively support thisindustry by supporting literacy and seeking tospread an infectious and lifelong love of readingand learning. Library lending encourages sam-pling new authors, topics, and genres. This exper-imentation stimulates the market for books, withthe library serving as a discovery, promotion, andawareness service for authors and publishers.Every publisher must allow libraries to lend e-books so libraries can continue to work toward themission of access for all.But even if the publishers change their policiestomorrow, Nebraska libraries would have difficultyaccessing the local funds to purchase all theebooks and audio books that library customersneed. Library customer demand continues to out-pace supply. To address this, the Nebraska Li-brary Commission has requested direct statefunding to expand ebook and audio book borrow-ing access for Nebraskans. With an investment of less than 50 cents per person, Nebraskans canbe assured that local libraries will do their best tocontinue their commitment to reading, knowledge,imagination, and lifelong learning for all Nebras-kans. For more information about NebraskaeReads, contact Francine Canfield, NE Library Association Advocacy Chair, 402-331-7636,email@example.com.