One more step toward national digital libraries? Massachusetts launches statewide digital library pilot

Could a pilot for a statewide e-library in Massachusetts help pave the way for well-stocked national digital libraries in the U.S.—offering greater purchasing power for librarians and far, far more choices for end users? – DR

cropped-ebook-word-cloud11Over the next six months, the Massachusetts Library System will test options for a statewide e-book library. If they work out, Massachusetts could soon be home to the single largest library consortium.

The MA eBook Project officially kicked off last Thursday, but was only announced yesterday. Fifty-one libraries across Massachusetts will explore different models for e-book lending in this first pilot program, and they will be sharing e-books acquired from two sources.

Baker & Taylor has agreed to license 3,000 titles from Axis 360′s catalog of more than 500,000 titles, and BiblioBoard has signed a deal to provide 30,000 titles. Axis 360 provides e-books under a single-user checkout license similar to that of OverDrive, and is used by around 400 libraries. BiblioBoard distributes content under a multi-user license. A third vendor, EBL, will also participate in the Massachusetts pilot if negotiations succeed.

The Massachusetts Library System has been working towards this pilot for about eight months now, having posted an RFP in March. In addition to developing a platform for libraries to check out e-books en masse, the MA eBook Project will also be “working on a statewide collection development policy, including the mission and goals of the project, loan guidelines, reconsideration, reviews, suggest-a-title, and self-published guidelines.” Other goals include securing a source of funding on the state level and building support among legislators.

For now, the system is focused mainly on lobbying for funding, but ideally the Massachusetts Library System in the future will also consider pushing for a legislative solution to the current problems with library e-book pricing and licensing..

More and more librarians and state officials are ticked at the exploitative policies of the major publishers and the resulting detrimental effects on communities.

At the moment, all five of the major publishers license e-books to libraries either at a high price or under an expiring license. That drives up the cost and consumes a larger share of libraries’ budgets which could have been better spent elsewhere, helping those members of the community who need library resources the most.

MA eBook Project blog

Note: Big thanks for Nate for permission to reproduce this post from The Digital Reader. I’ve changed the headline so it’s clear why I’m running the item.

Update, December 24: An earlier version of the post said negotiations with EBL appear to have fallen through. Actually they are continuing, and I’ve corrected this. Also, a Massachusetts library official has noted the focus on funding right now rather than on laws against excessive charges. I’ve made that change as well.  – D.R.

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