November 19, 2017

Connecticut Announces First Phase of Statewide Library Ebook Platform

Connecticut State Library modified logo (square)The Connecticut State Library (CSL) is working with non-profit cooperative Library Connection and the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT on the first phase of a new ebook service that will ultimately be available to all public libraries in the state.

“The statewide eBook service will be called eGO (“Books. Research. Historical documents. Go!”) and will be intended to supplement, not supplant, local library collections,” Eric Hansen, eGO and researchIT CT coordinator for CSL, told LJ.  “Initially the collection will include some of the content of the State Library’s OneClickdigital collection and public domain titles. Later we will add commercial content.”

Hansen added that local collections are “on our radar, and we are designing for that” and noted that CSL has digitized many Connecticut state publications and other historical works “that we certainly want to make available as part of the state collection. Adding Connecticut University Press titles is also something we are considering.”

In addition to building the collection, CSL has entered into a partnership with the New York Public Library to customize the recently-launched SimplyE App for use with the project. SimplyE is designed as a single user interface that makes it possible to discover, check out, and place holds on ebooks from multiple vendors, as well as public domain titles, using iOS or Android devices. CSL envisions SimplyE enabling Connecticut library patrons to access the statewide collection, as well as content from their local library, seamlessly.

“Apps for our service will be modeled after SimplyE and will make it possible for local library users to access the State Library ebooks, their local libraries’ eBooks, or their libraries’ regional library system eBooks, all with the same app,” Hansen said. “Working with NYPL to modify the app for Connecticut and to build the connectors to the various local ILSs is making it much easier than if we were to develop this on our own from scratch.”

Alice Knapp, president of The Ferguson Library, noted in CSL’s official announcement of the project that Ferguson has offered ebooks since 2002, “But it has never been easy for our users. That is why we are so excited to be working with the Connecticut State Library and the New York Public Library in a pilot for the eGO app, which will bring all of our e-material together for easy discovery and even easier reading and/or listening.”

George Christian, executive director of Library Connection, a nonprofit cooperative of 30 public and academic libraries which share an integrated library system (CONNECT), described a future in which the eGO app will seamlessly surface content for patrons, regardless of the variety of underlying permissions. “We believe this app will give patrons of our libraries an easy way to simultaneously discover all the ebooks that are available to them from our consortium’s shared collection, from the State Library’s One Click Digital collection, and from the collections at their home libraries that are restricted to their own patrons.”

Enabling this functionality will require the app to be customized to work with the many different library management systems used by libraries and consortia throughout the state.

Connecticut is not the first to launch a statewide library ebook platform—similar projects include the enki platform developed by Califa, the Kansas State Library’s digital collections, Reading Arizona, and the Commonwealth eBook Collections from the Massachusetts Library System. However, the new project is the culmination of years of advocacy by CSL and state officials.

In January 2013, State Representative Brian Sear introduced H.B. 5614, a bill that would have forced any publisher selling ebooks in the state to offer the same titles to libraries at the same retail prices. Following lobbying and legal threats from publishers Amazon, and Apple, the bill was significantly revised, and when it was signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy in June 2013, it simply mandated an investigation by the Department of Consumer Protection into the current state of ebook pricing and availability for Connecticut’s libraries.

This project is the result of that investigation, explained Hansen.

“The State Library’s Advisory Council for Library Planning and Development (ACLPD) conducted a two-year study of the state of libraries and ebooks that concluded in November of 2013,” he said. “With the ACLPD report, the State Library, aided by Representative Brian Sear, presented the issues [of costs and licensing terms for library ebooks] to the State Legislature. The Legislature then directed the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to conduct a study of the ebook market for libraries.”

Ultimately, the Department of Consumer Protection recommended three possible courses of action to help the state’s libraries: “increase funding for libraries, wait and see if market conditions improved, or create our own eBook platform,” Hansen said. “The Legislature chose the third option, and in January of 2015 the State Bond Commission approved $2.2 million for that purpose.”

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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