The Big Shift

Public Library Strategies for Access to Information in Any Format

In 2012, OCLC received a planning grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to more fully explore the challenges that U.S. public libraries are facing in providing e-book content, and to work with library leaders to identify and discuss possible strategies for addressing those challenges.

In the first stage of the project in late 2012, market and original research was conducted to inform the discussion. The resulting research contains information about the top commercial organizations in the e-book ecosystem and findings about demand for e-books in public libraries. It also offers public library purchasing projections and public library reach.

On January 24, 2013, OCLC, the program advisors and the program team hosted a meeting with 30 public library leaders at the Seattle Public Library to discuss the report and formulate strategies for addressing e-book issues. The half-day program was designed to help participants:

  • advance knowledge required to make concrete decisions that advance the goal of public access;
  • collaboratively derive realistic solutions/approaches to current barriers to public access, and;
  • commit to working together to apply those solutions/approaches.

Following the meeting in Seattle, OCLC, the Public Library Association and the Urban Libraries Council organized two additional sessions to gain broader feedback on strategies that resulted from the Seattle meeting. These represent a diverse set of strategies that working groups of public librarians are now actively pursuing.

The strategies are:

Create NEW value in the e-book supply chain—Look at how libraries can work with emerging opportunities and technologies in order to be proactive in understanding what can be done to enhance the chain from author to reader; this may include developing a shared platform for e-book discovery and lending.

Use data to articulate library value in the e-book supply chain—Understand and mine the aggregate data that libraries have that will help publishers, distributors and retailers understand the behavior of library users in aggregate.

Educate about the public policy issues around e-book access—Work with local, state and federal legislators, within the confines of individual library policies, to understand how legislators and community citizens might influence access to e-books.

Develop a common narrative—Develop common voice and messages about the importance of public libraries’ access to e-books that are influential with diverse set of players and influencers across the e-book ecosystem.

Work with additional partners—Continue to work with new partners to expand libraries’ ability to collaborate around access to e-books.

Coordinate and administer these plans—Create an administrative/consultative owner and action plan around the above strategies to ensure that each can be advanced.

You can learn more about the research and strategies by reading The Big Shift: Public Library Strategies for Access to Information in Any Format.

We hope you’ll join the conversation and the efforts.

—The “Big Shift” Advisors and Program Team

Brian Bannon, Chicago Public Library
Cathy De Rosa, OCLC
Sari Feldman, Cuyahoga County Public Library
Martín Gómez, University of Southern California
Susan Hildreth, IMLS
Chrystie Hill, OCLC
Bob Horton, IMLS
Melanie Huggins, Richland Library
Alan Inouye, ALA - OITP
Patrick Losinski, Columbus Metropolitan Library
Vailey Oehlke, Multnomah County Library
Jennifer Pearson, OCLC

OCLC is a worldwide library cooperative, owned, governed and sustained by members since 1967. Our public purpose is a statement of commitment to each other—that we will work together to improve access to the information held in libraries around the globe, and find ways to reduce costs for libraries through collaboration. Learn more »