by Janet Ingraham Dwyer

Frustrated by the state of access to ebooks for teens and other library users? What librarian wouldn’t be, given the snarl of issues surrounding ebooks in libraries – starting with publisher licensing arrangements that make some ebooks prohibitively expensive and others not available to libraries at any price? For example: want to connect your teens with Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series or check out Corey Ann Haydu’s debut novel, OCD Love Story, for phone or iPad? Can’t be done (unless you’re one of three New York library systems participating in Simon & Schuster’s first-time library ebook pilot project).

Enter ALA’s Digital Content Working Group (DCWG), a broad-based team commissioned in 2011 by then-American Library Association (ALA) President Molly Raphael. The DCWG advises ALA leadership about opportunities and issues related to libraries and digital content, and works toward provision of equitable access to digital content for all.

The DCWG has largely focused, to date, on access to ebooks for library users. It is working on accessibility, business models favorable to library licensing, e-content in school libraries, and outreach and communication to all stakeholders – including library staff, library users/readers, and authors. Authors! We love them, and we want them to know how central libraries are to discovery of their books (many are very well aware of this already, of course), and how difficult it has been for libraries to provide access to their works in ebook format.

Just announced at the 2013 ALA Conference, the Authors for Library Ebooks campaign invites authors to advocate for library access to ebooks. The campaign encourages authors to sign on to a statement of shared values, to discuss the issue with their publishers, and raise awareness of their concerns through their websites, social media and other communications channels.

Bestselling authors Cory Doctorow, Ursula K. Le Guin and Jodi Picoult are helping kick off the campaign. About 20 other authors have joined them so far, but that is just a start! The DCWG is very interested is reaching teen/YA authors who would be interested in signing on. If you have contacts with any authors, please consider reaching out to them and inviting them to participate. They don’t need to be famous, just supportive. If your teens can’t download an author’s ebooks through your library catalog, that is a good author to target! There is a “For Librarians” section on the A4LE website, which gives you all the tools to reach out to authors.

You can help turn the tide toward equitable access to digital content. Visit the Authors for Library Ebooks website. Spread the news about the campaign by liking the Facebook page, and by following @Authors4LE on Twitter and using the hashtag #A4LE. For a good, thorough overview of the library ebook situation, especially as related to young adult services, read Chanitra Bishop and Marijke Visser’s feature, “E-Books? So What’s the Big Deal?” in the Spring 2013 issue of Young Adult Library Services. This article also offers a list of ways you and your teens can take action and advocate for access to ebooks in your libraries.

Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Library Consultant for youth services at the State Library of Ohio, is one of two YALSA representatives to the new Interdivisional Task Force on the Common Core as well as the current YALSA representative to the Digital Content Working Group. She welcomes YALSA members’ questions and suggestions for the DCWG.

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