Giannoulias Kicks off License to Read Program with Push to Increase E-Book Accessibility
Illinois Would Join Other States Making E-Books More Available to Public Libraries Under Democrat’s Plan
CHICAGO, IL – Democrat for Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias will promote legislation enabling public libraries to license e-books and audiobooks under the same terms available to consumers, the former State Treasurer announced today.
Giannoulias, the former chair of the Illinois Community College System and member of the Chicago Public Library’s Board of Directors, made the pledge as part of his License to Read program that aims to narrow the digital divide and offer more access to library resources and learning materials, particularly in underserved areas of the state. As the State’s Librarian, the Secretary of State oversees three library systems comprising more than 600 public libraries across the state.
The goal of the legislation is to lower the prices that publishers charge libraries for e-books and audio books. Under Giannoulias’ plan, the new legislation would require that publishers offer reasonable terms to public libraries, enabling the libraries to license more books.
“We have an obligation to develop an equitable model in offering the public more resources – including e-books and other learning materials – through our public libraries,” Giannoulias said. “Libraries serve as the cornerstones of our communities and providing them with more content and increasing the availability of more titles – regardless of where people live – will strengthen their mission.”
Even before the pandemic limited access to physical books from libraries, e-books had become increasingly popular and more available for consumers.
Giannoulias added that with access to more e-books and audiobooks, libraries will have the ability to share more resources with residents in different areas of the state, including those who live in areas without public libraries or in areas with smaller libraries with fewer financial resources.
Three states – Maryland, New York and Rhode Island – have each passed similar measures during the past year.
“By making more books available to families, we can equip students with the educational tools and learning resources they need to succeed,” said State Representative Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan), who will sponsor the legislation in the Illinois House. “Passing this initiative will help bridge the divides that currently exist between our library districts. We need to make this a proposal a priority for Illinois.”
“Your address should not determine whether or not you’re able to access knowledge or check out a particular book title from your local library,” said State Senator and Deputy Leader Emil Jones (D-Chicago), who will sponsor the bill in the Illinois Senate. “People depend on their local libraries, but far too many face significant challenges when it comes to their ability to adequately serve their communities.”
Under publishing agreements, libraries are often prohibited from acquiring and providing access to digital content like e-books. The American Library Association has argued lack of access impedes libraries from best serving their communities.
According to studies, U.S. libraries spend over $4 billion annually purchasing or licensing copyrighted works, most of which has been earmarked for licenses for digital content. In some cases, libraries spend five times more than consumers for digital content, studies show. In addition, publishers embargo libraries’ access to new titles or restrict them from acquiring content. Another tactic publishers employ is limiting the number of times a library can lend an e-book to its members.
The legislation is just one of the components to Giannoulias’ License to Read plan that calls for increasing investment, access and equity to public libraries that he will roll out during the campaign.