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Today’s libraries connect e-readers but face roadblock

Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 4:16 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:59 p.m. CST

Nook. Kindle. iPad. La Grange Public Library. You’ve heard of all of these, right? You know that all four deliver digital content?

In fact, today’s libraries offer their patrons more than ever before.

Our library continues to change and offer new services to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities. We do this by selecting locally relevant materials, offering classes on downloading library e-books, hosting and assisting local book clubs and providing recommendations for future reading. 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 refuse to sell e-books to public libraries. As a result, our 15,550 community residents are not getting a fair deal.

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 due to these publishers’ policies. The popular "Hunger Games" and J.K. Rowling’s "The Casual Vacancy" are not available on e-books in libraries because libraries cannot purchase them at any price.

On the other hand, other publishers do understand the value of placing books in libraries. A recent report from Library Journal found that more than half of all library users purchased books by an author they discovered through the library. Library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books.

Visits to our library have nearly doubled over the past five years, as we also continue to circulate ten times more books, audio and video. 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. 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!

Jeannie Dilger is director of the La Grange Public Library

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