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Election 2019: CULC and #eContentForLibraries

September 19, 2019

Following their successful outreach campaign at the municipal level, the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) has provided its member libraries with tools to engage federal election candidates to ensure they are aware of the e-content issues and ask for their commitment that, if elected, they will work with CULC to ensure that a solution to the e-content challenge is identified and implemented.

Recognizing that the approach to the e-content challenge will depend on the party that take power and that most candidates are unlikely to be familiar with problems faced by libraries in accessing e-content and its impacts on users, CULC is asking its members to seek commitments from candidates from all parties to help solve the problem, rather than seeking support for a specific policy proposal at this time.

They recommend three tools:

  1. An addressed letter to each candidate for the major political parties in the library’s riding;
  2. A request for a meeting with each candidate, to further inform them on the e-content issue, and to seek their support during the campaign and if elected; and
  3. Social media messaging that can be used to further inform and engage candidates on the e-content issue.

Accessing E-content – FAQs (July 2019)

1. Why is CULC launching a campaign to improve access to E-Content?

Multinational publishers, including Amazon, which are primarily headquartered outside Canada, are limiting public library access to e-content, and, even when a publication is made available, are making it prohibitively expensive to acquire. Licensing restrictions, embargoes, and high costs make it difficult for libraries to provide important services that contribute to a thriving and engaged democracy. Public libraries and the early literacy programs they provide are integral to developing proficient readers and to ensuring that children succeed in school. Digital literacy programs also help ensure that citizens develop capacity to contribute to our digital world. Additionally, for many, including seniors, the visually impaired, low income families, youth, and new Canadians, public libraries are a crucial tool for participation in their communities – from education to searching for jobs to consuming Canadian cultural materials.

2. How can CULC members participate in the campaign?

CULC members are being provided with materials to be used for their communications with federal election candidates in advance of the October 21, 2019 federal election. These materials will be updated but consistent with previous material used in our previous successful outreach with municipalities. Materials will include op-eds for local newspapers, talking points for discussions with candidates, and draft social media messaging which CULC members can use in their own social media feeds. To build the required momentum, we ask that all members take the time to utilize the material in outreach to your local federal election candidates as part of this campaign.

3. How does the inability to access e-content impact libraries and their users?

Those restrictions and costs make it difficult for libraries to provide services integral to public library users. Public library services are invaluable to developing readers and ensuring kids succeed in school. Digital literacy programs ensure folks can successfully contribute to our digital world. Additionally, for many, including seniors, the visually impaired, low income families, youth, and new Canadians, public libraries are a crucial tool for participation in their communities – from education to searching for jobs to consuming Canadian cultural materials. Restrictions on library a access to e-content hampers our capacity to provide modern, digitized services to those and other demographic groups.

4. What digital publications are difficult to access for public libraries?

To some degree, all types of digital content – including fiction and non-fiction books, newspapers, magazines, and periodicals – have become either prohibitively expensive or not available to public libraries. This is especially true for digital content published by multinational publishers. By way of example, Canadian author Louise Penny’s book Kingdom of the Blind is available to libraries for $13 as a paperback, $22 in hard cover, and $60 in digital form. The $60 cost allows the book to be checked out electronically 52 times or for 2 years – whichever happens first. A paper edition would be expected to last 3 to 4 years at a substantially reduced cost. The book is currently not available to Canadian libraries in any e-audio format. As well, a bestselling book like David Baldacci’s The Fallen is available to libraries in hard copy for $22.80 and in digital form for $87.00.

5. How successful was CULC’s municipal outreach in regards to the e-content campaign?

The municipal campaign was very successful. We have seen supportive resolutions for the e-content campaign from municipalities across the country, including Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Mississauga, Cambridge, the Okanagan, Surrey and Markham. We have also seen significant media coverage including a featured story on CBC’s The National. Most significant, Penguin Random House has committed to striking a Canadian Public Advisory committee and open discussions on a model that can work for libraries, authors, and Penguin Random House.

6. Is this problem restricted to multinational publishers?

The problem we have identified is especially apparent with multinational publishers, and also applies to Amazon.

7. Why do libraries feel election candidates can assist in solving this problem?

CULC’s goal in reaching out to candidates is to increase understanding of the e-content issue amongst all parties and to ensure those candidates that are successful in being elected are committed to finding a solution. Once elected, we will ensure these allies are provided material to continue raising this issue until an appropriate solution is found.

8. Aren’t libraries governed provincially, why is the Federal government being targeted?

Though some stakeholders may argue that libraries are a provincial and municipal issue, the Federal government currently has regulations under the Copyright Act in relation to book importation (which do not currently address e-content) and is best-placed to provide a comprehensive, Canada-wide solution to the e-content issue.

9. What is CULC’s proposed solution?

We are asking the Federal government to help overcome the barriers that Canadian library users face in accessing e-content. We see three options for the federal government – first, we ask that the federal government initiate discussions with both CULC and multinational publishers to find a collaborative solution; should these efforts be unsuccessful we would ask the federal government to investigate legislative or regulatory options that would address the access to e-content issue.

Accessing Digital Publications – Key Facts

  • Public libraries increasingly struggle to obtain digital content from multinational publishers, primarily because of the often-strict licensing limitations and prohibitive prices applied to those publications.
    • For example, Canadian author Louise Penny’s book Kingdom of the Blind is available to libraries for $13 as a paperback, $22 in hard cover, and $60 in digital form. The $60 cost allows the book to be checked out electronically 52 times or for 2 years – whichever happens first. A paper edition would be expected to last 3 to A years at a substantially reduced cost. The book is currently not available to Canadian libraries in any e-audio format.
  • Barriers to public libraries accessing digital publications hamper users ability to access digitized services. This is exacerbated when some digital content are only be available to us in digital forms.
    • For many library users, including seniors, low income families, youth, and new Canadians, libraries are a crucial tool for participation in their communities – from education, to searching for jobs, to consuming Canadian cultural materials. Barriers to digital access at libraries impact these patrons disproportionately.
  • Public libraries provide integral services that contribute to thriving communities. It is essential that library users have access to digital resources.
    • For example, public library early literacy programs are integral to developing proficient readers and giving children the tools to succeed in school and, public library digital literacy programs help ensure that all citizens have the ability to contribute to our digital world.
  • CULC members spend approximately $112 million in public funds annually on library materials (books, e-content, streaming music and film, etc.), including more than $11 million on digital resources, but we need our government partners to do more to help us ensure that public libraries have access to affordable digital publications.
  • CULC is asking candidates from all political parties to commit that, if elected, they will work to ensure that the Federal government plays a key role in alleviating the lack of access to e-content, so that public libraries can meet the growing demand for digital publications.
    • Collaborative action on this issue will drive significant public benefits. Recent studies by the Martin Prosperity Institute, the British Library, and the Library Research Service demonstrated that every $1 dollar spent on public libraries – including on e-books and other digital services – generates an economic return of $5 or more.

Accessing E-Content – Key Messages (August 2019)

  • Members of the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) spend approximately $100 million in public funds annually on library resources.
  • Even with that significant expenditure, we increasingly struggle to obtain e-content from multinational publishers, due to cost pressures and often-strict licensing limitations applied to e-content.
  • In order to properly service our communities – including vulnerable groups like seniors, lower income individuals, and youth at risk that benefit from library access – we need to ensure that we Canadians have access to e-content.
  • Publishers, primarily headquartered outside Canada, are limiting Canadian libraries’ access to e-content, and, even when a publication is made available, are making it prohibitively expensive to acquire e-content. By way of example, Canadian author Louise Penny’s book Kingdom of the Blind is available to libraries for $ 13 as a paperback, $22 in hard cover and $60 in digital form. The $60 cost allows the book to be checked out electronically 52 times or for 2 years – whichever happens first. A paper edition would be expected to last 3 to 4 years at a substantially reduced cost. The book is currently not available to Canadian libraries in any e-audio format.
  • Those restrictions and costs make it difficult for libraries to provide invaluable services that contribute to thriving and engaged communities. Public libraries and the early literacy programs that they run are integral to developing proficient readers and ensuring that children succeed in school. Digital literacy programs also help ensure that citizens can contribute to our digital world.
  • Additionally, for many, including seniors, low income families, youth, and new Canadians, libraries are a crucial tool for participation in their communities – from education to searching for jobs to consuming Canadian cultural materials.
  • Barriers to libraries accessing e-content hamper our capacity to provide modern, digitized services to those demographic groups and to other public library users. This is exacerbated when some publications may only be available to us in digital forms.
  • Municipalities across Canada having indicated their support for CULC’s campaign to increase e-content for public library users and public libraries across Canada.
  • We are asking candidates from all parties in this falls’ federal election to recognize the fundamental role that libraries play in our communities and to commit to work collaboratively with us to find a solution to ensure Canadians have access to e-content.

Sample Letter

Dear-:

I am writing on behalf of the public libraries in [name of federal riding], which provide essential services and are integral parts of our communities, to seek your support on an issue important to providing comprehensive, modern library services.

The Canadian Urban Libraries Council, of which [local library board] is a member, is asking candidates from all political parties in this October’s Federal election to commit to working collaboratively to ensure that multinational publishers provide Canada’s public libraries with affordable access to e-content, to meet the needs of public library users in our community and across the country.

Public libraries increasingly struggle to obtain or e-content from multinational publishers, primarily because of the often-strict licensing limitations and prohibitive prices applied to those publications. For example/ Canadian author Louise Penny’s book Kingdom of the Blind is available to public libraries for $13 as a paperback, $22 in hard cover, and $60 as an e-Book.

Moreover, Kingdom of the Blind, like numerous other publications, is currently not available to Canadian libraries in any e-audio format due to exclusive licensing models that are not offered to public libraries. which disadvantages those who have visual impairments or otherwise require e-audio formats to access written materials.

Barriers to public libraries accessing e-content hamper our capacity to provide modern, digitized services to our patrons. This is made worse when some publications are only available in digital formats.

Libraries and the programs they provide are integral to ensuring a thriving democracy. Public library digital literacy programs help ensure that citizens are able to contribute to our digital world. Additionally, for many seniors/ lower income families, youth, and new Canadians, public libraries provide access to resources they may not otherwise be able to obtain. Canadians rely on libraries as an important tool for their participation in the community – from early literacy and education to searching for Jobs to consuming Canadian cultural materials. It is essential that we have affordable access to econtent, so that all Canadians can benefit from the growing trend towards digitization.

I’d appreciate hearing from you at your earliest convenience to confirm that you are prepared to commit to working with us to libraries across Canada have the access to e-content required to properly serve our communities.

Your sincerely,

(Via Canadian Urban Libraries Council)

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