COSLA: eBook Feasibility Study for Public Libraries

Libraries everywhere are struggling as the world switches from printed books and magazines to e-publishing. Where do libraries fit into this brave new world?

A study by the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) suggests that libraries can grow and thrive by focusing on eBooks. The study suggests that libraries need to anticipate this shift and become part of the eBook story. The study isn’t new, being published in 2010. However, I believe the information in the study hasn’t changed appreciably since then.

Specifically, the study states that libraries must:

  • Find a low-cost way to lend devices through the library or let people try them out
  • Improve the ease of use for discovering and getting library eBooks
  • Expand access to eBooks through larger collections and national buying pools while delivering real-time local statistics in a manner that helps library funders see the value of large-scale collaboration at the local level
  • Apply leverage to publishers and vendors for better pricing, licensing models, more reasonable copyright or DRM models around shared use, and standards
  • Explore how libraries can transition from an emphasis on content supplier to creating spaces that invite social interaction around learning and living literature

As I read the report, I couldn’t help but think about self-published genealogy books. These books are typically the result of thousands of hours of work by the authors and yet have traditionally been published in small numbers, thereby limiting the potential audience. Libraries typically have encouraged aspiring authors and have provided guidance. Is there a similar opportunity to provide assistance to all sorts of potential authors, including genealogists?

The study discusses the subject of assisting authors, starting at page 38 and covering the “explosive growth in self-publishing and what it could mean for public libraries.” The study also states, “The cultural production represented by self-publishing is now more than twice that of mainstream publishing.”

Is this a growth opportunity for authors and libraries alike?

You can read COSLA: eBook Feasibility Study for Public Libraries without going to your local library. Simply point your web browser to

One Comment

As of 2018, libraries are still wary of the self publishing industry. One Self-Published Books Policy of a Canadian library states: “Although this type of publishing is experiencing rapid growth, these books often do not meet the requirements outlined in the Materials Selection Policy to be candidates for the Library’s permanent collection” So untrue. The quality of CreateSpace, one self publishing company is great.

“They typically have not received reviews in standard published sources and may not meet the criteria that the Library normally sets for inclusion in its collections.” Well this may be true, and most self published editors omit the editorial reviews step.

“The Library will establish a Local Authors shelf at the Victoria Avenue Library.” The library WILL accept donations of self published book, and place in a segregated space in the library, outside of the general collections.

So even today, it’s difficult to get a self published book into a library.


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