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State E-Book Summit - May 4, 2011

Follow-up to the May 4, 2011, Summit

The E-book Summit final report is now available.

Topic #4 in the Summit report addresses what is often referred to as the "same services" requirement. In brief, this statutory provision requires libraries in a regional library system "to provide, to any resident of the system area, the same library services, on the same terms, that are provided to the residents of the municipality or county that established the member library." This provision was included in the law over 25 years ago, at a time when libraries shared tangible items like printed books. (Partly as a result of this requirement, Wisconsin is ranked first among all states in per capita interlibrary loan.) However, as discussed at the Summit and in follow-up conversations, because of publisher imposed restrictions, adhering to this requirement can be difficult when sharing resources in digitized formats (e.g., e-books). In addressing this issue, the state library division has taken the following actions:

  • Worked in close cooperation with the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium (WPLC) to create a $1 million buying pool, primarily to increase content available via OverDrive. This added content is available to all libraries in a regional system and is intended to address the "same service" requirement. (The issue of establishing buying pools is discussed in Topic #2 in the Summit report.)
  • Sent a memo to the Outagamie Waupaca Library System (March 18, 2011) and an email (August 2, 2011) to the state's public library community (via the WISPUBLIB list) that further articulated the DPI's position on the "same services" requirement in relation to e-books and other digitized content.
  • Going forward, Division staff will work with the library community to review statutory requirements related to membership in regional library systems. The "same services" requirement will be part of the review process.
  • Under current state statutes, libraries that make new purchases of e-books or other virtual items that are not available to all system area residents on the same basis as they are available to local residents will be considered out of compliance with the same services requirement for library system membership and their library system must develop and submit to the DLTCL a plan to bring the library back into compliance.

E-book Summit Overview

E-books and devices to read them have rapidly increased in popularity—especially over this past year. This is a major development in the publishing industry and it will very likely have an equally major impact on library services. This development raises many issues and questions for Wisconsin's libraries and for libraries nationwide. For example,

  • Will libraries be able to satisfy public demand for e-books and other e-content?
  • Will libraries be able to fund e-content purchases along with all of the other formats they purchase?
  • Will publishers and vendors offer reasonable pricing and licensing terms?
  • Will libraries be able to offer e-books to non-residents and share e-books with other libraries?
  • Will there be "haves" and "have-nots" in providing access to e-books?

Wisconsin libraries have been leaders nationwide in making certain that the collective resources available in our libraries are also available to all system residents and, in most cases, to all state residents. From an e-book perspective, will this be possible in the future? To raise the level of discourse on the important issues encompassing e-books and other e-content, the DLTCL convened an E-book Summit on May 4. Earlier this year the state's library organizations submitted nominations for Summit participation to the state library division and subsequently, invitations were sent to about forty individuals. For specific activities at the Summit, see the agenda.

E-book Summit Purpose

The overall purpose of the Summit was to recommend statewide strategies for addressing e-content issues, with the primary focus being on e-books. The Wisconsin Summit also helped contribute to the larger national debate on these topics, because many of the issues must be addressed at that level. (For example, see the ALA's Presidential Task Force on Equitable Access to Electronic Content.) Also at the national level, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) commissioned a 2010 report titled eBook Feasibility Study for Public Libraries. The Wisconsin E-book Summit used some of the COSLA study's findings to help frame the day's debates and discussions. More specifically, Summit participants divided into focus groups to review, discuss and make recommendations based on the following five issues or topics.

  • Topic 1: How to get reasonable pricing, use and licensing terms from publishers/vendors and how to ensure that copyright and Digital Rights Management (DRM) address shared use and the need to address standards, including accessibility.
  • Topic 2: How to expand access to e-books through larger collections and regional, state and national buying pools, while delivering e-book use statistics to help library stakeholders see the value of collaboration.
  • Topic 3: How to find cost effective ways for libraries to lend e-book devices or to let patrons try them out.
  • Topic 4: How to provide e-books to all system residents on the same basis that they are provided to local residents; or should this statutory requirement be modified in some way?
  • Topic 5: How to improve the e-book "experience" for patrons including discovering what ebooks the library offers, how to get library provided e-books on patron e-book devices, how to provide technical support, training and public relations.

The focus groups discussed issues related to their topic and made recommendations to address those issues. Near the end of the day everyone participated in a large group exercise to prioritize the recommendations. In the coming weeks and months the Division for Libraries and Technology will work closely with the E-book Summit Committee, participants in the Summit and the state's library community to review all of the recommendations. The overall goal is to find ways to help ensure that the state's library community can provide the broadest possible access to e-books in the most economical manner possible. Wisconsin has been a leader nationwide in ensuring that our residents have access to print materials. It is the intent of the division to also ensure—to the greatest extent possible—that our state's residents have access to e-content in the same manner that they have access to print materials.

Note: We want your comments. Please feel free to contribute your thoughts and comments via our open sharing (Google) website.

For questions about this information, contact John DeBacher (608) 267-9225