Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the Statewide Resource Sharing Planning Committee Project?

A: This project is an effort to expand particular services and materials that libraries throughout Massachusetts can offer patrons by combining resources statewide. Some of the services being examined are a larger shared eBook collection and a statewide library card.  A Statewide Resource Sharing Business Plan was drafted by the Committee, submitted and presented to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) that endorsed it in October, 2012.

Q: Who serves on the Statewide Resource Sharing Committee?

A: Currently, there are 17 members representing public, academic, school and special libraries across the state. There are also representatives from two of the automated networks, the MBLC (staff and commissioners) and the Massachusetts Library System (MLS) offices. List of members.

Q: Why are eBooks such a strong focus of this effort?

A: After the Resource Sharing Unbound Conference at Holy Cross last May, the Statewide Resource Planning Committee heard that libraries wanted the state to take a lead with an eBook project similar to Douglas County.

EBook use from Massachusetts public libraries has more than tripled in one year, yet there are many obstacles faced by library patrons and staff who want better digital access to books. Many library patrons are frustrated with the lack of availability of eBook titles, and restrictions on borrowing. Libraries want to meet patron need by lending a wide range of materials in all formats, including in eBook format. EBooks offer many conveniences and are very accessible to patrons with disabilities.

Q: Why are there so few eBooks available?

A: Not all titles are available as eBooks.  Some publishers are not willing to offer eBooks to libraries, and this limits access to many popular authors and best sellers.  Other publishers are charging much more than the print copy of the same book, and this strains libraries’ ability to buy more eBooks. Some publishers will only allow libraries check out eBooks a certain number of times before they must pay for another license. Popular titles become very expensive to maintain in the eBook catalog.

Q: Why can’t patrons renew their eBooks?

A: With eBooks, the lend automatically expires at the end of the loan period so that the next person waiting can read it. One of the benefits of automatic expiration is that there are no overdue fines that accrue. If no one else is waiting for the eBook, the patron can simply check it out again.

Q: Why can’t more than one person download the same title at the same time?

A: There are rights imposed by publishers that allow only one patron at a time to download and read one “copy” of an eBook.

Q: What is the Statewide Resource Sharing Committee’s plan to address the eBook challenge for libraries?

A: A pilot project is underway involving 50 libraries of different types from around the state.  A collection of approximately 10,000 titles will be selected that represent the reading interests and information needs of patrons from various types of libraries. Discussions are being held with potential vendors at this time. The start-up collection may not necessarily include the full range of bestsellers that you might find in a public library’s new book collection, but will be broader in range than the eBooks available to most libraries right now. The pilot project is scheduled to be up and running by the end of May 2013.

Q: Who will choose the eBooks for the shared collection?

A: The Resource Sharing Committee will assemble a collection development committee that represents public, school, academic and special libraries so that many reading interests will be represented.

Q: How will the expanded eBook collection be paid for? Will we have less funding for print books?

A: The initial cost of the pilot eBook project will be paid for by MLS and LSTA funds from the MBLC. If the project is a success and expands to additional libraries, all will be asked to contribute funds for the eBook collection. Eventually, participating libraries may be assessed a percentage of their materials budget, according to a formula to be determined. Many libraries operate this way presently for eBook collections they share.  The Committee will have a small group working on a suggested formula that will be discussed and vetted by pilot libraries.

Q: Can patrons donate eBooks that they have purchased from Amazon or other vendors?

A: Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions by publishers prohibit donating eBooks to someone else or to a library.

Q: How can my library get involved in expanding our eBook offerings?

A: The Statewide Resource Sharing Committee will evaluate the eBook project at the end of the pilot phase. If the concept is successful, additional libraries will be able to participate, after any necessary adjustments to the model have been made. The committee expects to begin adding additional libraries in the fall of 2013.

Q: What about public, school and special libraries that are not yet automated?

A: If the pilot project is successful, libraries across the state will be invited to part of the project. The Resource Sharing Planning Committee has appointed a Statewide Library Card Working Group to address issues such as this question. We hope to have some answers by summer 2013.

Q: How can I learn more about the Statewide Resource Sharing Plan and the work of the committee?

A: Continue to visit the Libraries Matter Blog on the MBLC Newsroom and post your comments and questions. Bloggers will respond and look forward to staying in touch with library staff throughout the Commonwealth.

American Library Association's eBook FAQ

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Page last updated on 01/9/2013