ALA Releases Toolkit to Help Libraries Campaign for eBook Access

By Jason Boog Comment

The American Library Association released an E-Book Media and Communications Toolkit, helping libraries campaign for digital book access.

The package includes statistics, graphics, reporter contact advice, sample public service announcement scripts, and templates for writing op-eds and letters to the editor. We’ve included the op-ed template below–do you think these letters can help librarians take their cause to the public? Here’s more about the template:

This op-ed (stands for “opposite the editorial page”) template is intended to raise awareness that your library offers e-books, but also faces roadblocks to this service. If e-books are new or underutilized in your community, this may be a good choice for you. We have included places to customize this text to your community, but you should change the draft headline or other text to meet your needs and local media guidelines for length. Op-eds provide a place in newspapers, some magazines, and some television and radio commentaries, for readers, listeners and viewers to express their views. A good strategy is to be timely and present local evidence to make your point.

 Op-Ed Template for Librarians from the ALA

(Librarians must fill in the parts in brackets)

Nook. Kindle. iPad. [Name of library.] You’ve heard of all of these, right? You know that all four deliver digital content? No? Well, you’re not alone. According to the Pew Internet Project, most people don’t know that U.S. public libraries provide e-books and other digital resources. In fact, today’s libraries offer their patrons more than ever before.

Our library continues to change and offer new services and programs to meet the ever-changing needs and desires of our communities. According to a 2012 American Library Association study, the number of public libraries offering e-books has doubled in the last five years, with 75 percent now offering the service. At [name of library] we began offering e-books [date: this month, this year, last year, etc]. This was not the beginning – nor will it be the end – of our commitment to reading, knowledge, imagination and lifelong learning for all.

Libraries help readers find authors, and authors find readers. We do this by selecting locally relevant materials, and through [local examples, e.g., author readings, classes on downloading library e-books, book clubs, recommendations for future reading] and other collaborations with authors and publishers. Libraries also are engaged in growing and supporting the next generations of readers – encouraging children and young adults to read for fun and for success in school and life. [Provide local example of how the library supports new readers] If you haven’t checked us out recently, now is a great time to stop by, log on, renew your library card or join a program or class.

But libraries face a roadblock. For the first time ever, we are unable to purchase some materials our communities deserve. Right now, several of the largest trade publishers (known as “the Big Six”) refuse to sell e-books to public libraries. As a result, our [population size] community residents are not getting a fair deal. While we are investing more in our electronic collections, we have fewer digital options than we have always enjoyed with physical books.

Let’s be clear on what this means: If our libraries’ digital bookshelves mirrored the New York Times fiction bestseller list, we would be missing half of our collection any given week due to these publishers’ policies. The popular Bared to You and The Glass Castle are not available in libraries because libraries cannot purchase them at any price. Today’s teens also will not find the digital copy of Judy Blume’s seminal Forever.

On the other hand, other publishers – including hundreds of smaller, independent presses and a rising tide of self-published authors – do understand the value of placing books in libraries. A recent report from Library Journal found that more than half of all library users report purchasing books by an author they discovered through the library. Our library welcomes partners and collaborators to continue building a culture of reading and learning that embraces all formats, for all ages and all backgrounds.

Publishing is not just another industry. It has special and important significance to society. Libraries complement and, in fact, actively support this industry by supporting literacy and seeking to spread an infectious and lifelong love of reading and learning. Library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics, and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books, with the library serving as a de facto discovery, promotion, and awareness service for authors and publishers.

Visits to our library – both in person and online – have grown [include percentage growth, if high] over the past [how many?] years, as we also continue to circulate more books, audio and video [include circulation growth, if high]. Libraries have been central to complementing our public education system and ensuring access to information for all people.

Every publisher must allow libraries to lend e-books so we may continue to realize our mission of access for all. And every member of our community should put their library cards to work exploring our growing collections of resources online and in person. Your free public library card is the smartest card in your wallet – get it and use it for e-books and more today!