The Topeka & Shawnee County Library in Kansas launched a grassroots campaign on May 2, whose goal is to convince publishers to increase the availability of ebooks to libraries.
The advocacy effort, called ebooks for libraries, featured a petition with a target of 10000 signatures. The campaign reached that target on June 25.
“In light of the recent announcements from publishers about pricing for and sales to libraries, we decided we wanted to take a proactive, positive approach to opening a line of communication from readers, especially those who use libraries, to publishers,” said Gina Millsap, the library’s CEO (she also explained the campaign on her blog).
The petition will be snail mailed to the Big Six publishers, only two of which — HarperCollins and Random House— make their ebooks available for library lending.
“The intent is positive – to educate readers and library users about the current ebook market and how libraries may currently purchase ebooks and to establish a way for readers, who are also library users, to become familiar with and to give feedback to publishers,” said Millsap, who is also a candidate for the presidency of the American Library Association (the election results come out on Friday).
The library staff built the site in a week, according to David King, the library’s digital branch and services manager. Library Renewal has agreed to be a partner site.
“They’ll help spread the word about the petition,” King said. Library Renewal is a nonprofit that advocates for greater access to electronic content and both King and Millsap sit on the group’s board. [Library Journal (not this reporter) gave some informal feedback on the site.]
“It’s been a challenge to explain to our colleagues, our boards of trustees and thousands of local library customers why libraries can’t provide the same kind of access to ebooks that Amazon does,” Millsap said. “There’s a lot of passion about and interest in this issue and concern about what the long-term impact is for libraries and our readers.”
In addition to explaining the current ebook lending situation, the site also includes a sample press release, a sample video script, news media contacts, publisher contacts, a flyer, and links.
“We are also encouraging librarians to educate themselves, their boards and their customers about the current ebook situation so that they can speak about it knowledgeably and civilly and ultimately, make good decisions for their libraries and readers,” Millsap said. In addition to Millsap and King, staffers Jeff Tate, Diana Friend, Rob Banks, Michael Perkins, Paul Brennan and Scarlett Fisher-Herreman helped create the site.