Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Libraries Launch Digital Collection of 100 Local eBooks: Waitlist-free with accessibility-friendly features
From June 15 to July 15, libraries in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will feature a collection of 100 local eBooks that users can access simultaneously, and that have a range of accessibility-friendly features for users with print disabilities.
Nova Scotia Public Libraries, Halifax Public Libraries and New Brunswick Public Libraries partnered to select English and French books that are produced by Atlantic-Canadian publishers. The full collection will be available to everyone through digital platforms the libraries use, including OverDrive in Halifax, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and the French books will also be available on PretNumerique in New Brunswick. The books in the collection will also be available through accessible platforms provided by the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) in Nova Scotia.
“We hope our customers throughout will be excited to read local stories, and we plan to make it really easy for them to find the titles they want, and they’ll be easily accessible for a wide variety of abilities,” says Cynthia Gatto, manager of collection development at Halifax Public Libraries.
In the last two years, Halifax Public Libraries has experienced a 45 percent increase in its users of the Overdrive eBook platform. In the past year alone, it has seen a 32 percent increase in the circulation of digital items.
There has been an increase in users generally, Gatto says. Prompted by temporary library closures during the pandemic, Halifax Public Libraries allowed people to apply for digital cards online and use digital collections without coming into the library. Nova Scotia Public Libraries and New Brunswick Public Libraries have also had an increase in digital library users during the pandemic.
Libraries purchase physical books and digital licences for eBooks for their library collection. EBooks are typically available one at a time, similar to physical books, because publishers depend on the revenue generated from each copy. However, publishers and libraries are working together with the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association to offer this collection of 100 Atlantic eBooks waitlist-free, starting in mid-June.
“I think there’s been an expectation from the beginning that eBooks would be free of holds, and anyone can access any title at any given time, but of course you run into business-model issues,” Thomas Guignard, library consultant for Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association says.
EBooks offer convenience in terms of downloading and returning; they do not require trips to the library. As well, one device can have many eBooks, so it is lighter to carry than traditional physical books.
While publishers rely on traditional revenue streams, this project is another exploration of an eBook licensing model where libraries can purchase “simultaneous downloads” and enable users to read the same book at the same time without buying additional copies. The licensing model for the pilot is a per circulation model, and 100 percent of the purchase goes directly to publishers and authors. The data from this campaign will be collected and analyzed to see the feasibility of new business revenue models.
“I think in this case that the publishers are being courageous in being open to try the model out in a controlled environment for a controlled pilot,” Guignard says. He says that he hopes the pilot project will provide data on the feasibility of this approach long term.
Accessibility and eBooks
The Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) and the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) work with libraries across Canada to provide accessible books to users with print or other disabilities. Some eBooks available through OverDrive and PretNumerique allow for some accessibility features, including the ability to change font size, adjust background lighting or use dyslexic-friendly fonts such as OpenDyslexic.
Guignard says that one important role of libraries is providing “information without barriers. That’s also why I think providing service in accessible formats is really important to libraries, because it’s core to their essence that they should not discriminate.”
“Working with APMA on the Read Atlantic collection is special to NNELS because this project represents a significant step towards born-accessible eBooks that can be read by everyone in the Atlantic provinces, regardless of ability,” says Danielle Levy-Pinto, project coordinator at NNELS.
According to Leah Brochu, accessible publishing & resources coordinator, NNELS makes books available in several accessible formats and offers guidance and tutorials for individuals and libraries on how to read using a variety of systems, platforms and devices. They work with other organizations funded by the Canada Book Fund’s Accessible Digital Books program, including CELA, to help libraries and publishers create audiobooks. The organization also evaluates reading platforms for accessibility.
Brochu lists criteria for evaluating the accessibility of reading platforms, including the abilities to log in and access a platform; browse the user’s bookshelf; discover, open and read content; navigate content; customize content (font, text size, background, reading/playback speed); set and access bookmarks; and access and adjust settings.
Advances in technology, clear accessibility standards and the adoption of EPUB3 format make it easier for publishers to create accessible books and convert titles to specialized formats, Levy-Pinto says, making it easier for readers with disabilities to access Canadian literature.
“Being able to read what you want, when you want, is something that many people take for granted, but has never been an option for people with print disabilities before,” Brochu says, “Whether it is a student using a book who needs to be able to ‘flip’ to the same page as their classmates, a grandparent who wants to be able to read a book to their grandchildren, or anyone else – they deserve timely access to high quality materials, and we are proud to be a part of meeting this need in Canada.”
Finding local Atlantic Canadian books
“Providing access to local publishers and authors has always been a key priority in our collection development; it is an important part of our community and supports our culture, and our economy” Teresa Johnson, director of research and planning at New Brunswick Public Libraries says.
New Brunswick Public Libraries feature local books and authors in an online catalogue collection, run several campaigns including a Read Local campaign in October, and highlight eBooks about New Brunswick heritage on both OverDrive and PretNumerique platforms. PretNumerique is a bilingual platform and offers patrons the largest selection of books to read or listen to in French, Johnson says.
Nova Scotia Public Libraries have an Atlantic Canadian collection of books on their digital platform, that has been developed over the years with local publishers. Halifax Public Libraries also has a local selection on their digital platform, including a local recipe collection called Cloud Cookbooks where library users can find recipes using local ingredients, Gatto says.
“This project gives us a new way to let all Nova Scotians explore Atlantic Canadian books, and the fact that they can do it on demand is even better,” Dyan Bader, manager of systems and collections access with Nova Scotia Provincial Library says.
“I think the variety of Atlantic Canadian titles will surprise people,” Bader says, “We have a great mix of fiction and nonfiction, adult and children’s titles, and English and French. We’ve also got a great mix of diverse local authors represented and titles featuring a variety of topics, locations and issues, so there’s really something in the collection for everybody.”