With concern in the library community continuing to grow over their ability to provide access to digital content, the Council of the American Library Association yesterday passed a resolution to ramp up its advocacy efforts—including taking the issue to Congress.

The "Resolution on E-Book Pricing for Libraries" was adopted and brought to the ALA Council by ASCGLA (the Association of Specialized, Government and Cooperative Library Agencies), a division of the ALA. The resolution references efforts in Canada to alert the public to the problems of licensing digital content from publishers, and proposes to create a new joint working group to more directly confront the issues in the U.S.

The resolution states:

Whereas Canadian Public Libraries for Fair eBook Pricing has led efforts “to raise awareness of eBook pricing issues, with the goal of ensuring broad access to eBooks for Canadian readers";

Whereas the Canadian Urban Library Council (CULC) has declared that the high cost of e-books and audiobooks, content unavailable to libraries, and restrictive licensing models are not a sustainable model for Canadian Libraries;

Whereas libraries and their readers in the United States face the same barriers to access of titles that exist in Canada, preventing access by citizens to information;

Now, therefore, be it Resolved that the American Library Association (ALA), on behalf of its members:

1) Creates a joint working group of representatives from ALA, ULC, ASGCLA, COSLA and other members to be determined to address library concerns with publishers and content providers specifically:

a. To develop a variety of digital content license models that will allow libraries to provide content more effectively, allowing options to choose between one-at-a-time, metered, and other options to be made at point of sale;

b. To make all content available in print and for which digital variants have been created to make the digital content equally available to libraries without moratorium or embargo;

c. To explore all fair options for delivering content digitally in libraries;

d. To urge Congress to explore digital content pricing and licensing models to ensure democratic access to information'

2) Develops an advocacy and public awareness campaign to provide accurate information about the true value of library purchasing of books to publishers.

The resolution comes after a year in which libraries lost ground in the digital content realm, including new restrictions on digital audio licenses. And the conversation about digital content took a notable turn at the 2019 ALA Annual Conference, with librarians increasingly beginning to see the restrictions on providing digital access as an equity issue, and an issue of basic fairness.