Hwang seeks to help libraries with e-book costs

Posted: Feb 28, 2022 7:00 AM

HARTFORD — Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28), bipartisan lawmakers and Connecticut librarians from across the state have raised awareness of the ever-growing budget deficit facing these important community cornerstones and resources, and pledged to work together to offer solutions to support our local libraries.

According to a statement from the senator, lawmakers were joined by Ellen Paul, executive director of the Connecticut Library Consortium, Deborah Schander, Connecticut State Librarian, and a number of librarians from cities, suburbs and rural municipalities across the country. Connecticut, and higher education libraries. as well as.

Each member of the group brought their own stories of the challenges they face in balancing providing their virtual and in-person visitors with state-of-the-art works, materials and programs while maintaining high standards of access and security. public.

As a budget item under constant scrutiny, Connecticut public libraries now receive an average of only 1.15% of municipal budgets to provide needed services to the communities they serve.

Additionally, libraries are facing increased costs associated with obtaining digital resources that allow people to access materials regardless of location or disability status, the statement said.

According to the State Library, the cost for libraries to obtain an e-book license is twice what it costs to purchase a hardcover copy of the same resource and these licenses often expire after a period of time or a defined number of uses. To obtain an audio version accessible to people with visual impairments or other reading disabilities, the costs can be even four times higher.

Douglas Lord of the CH Booth Library in Newtown, who pitched the idea to Senator Hwang during a recent visit to the Booth Library, said, “The attention to this particular area of ​​library budgets is both timely and important. Librarians routinely make gold out of straw, but e-books hit our budgets particularly hard. Add to that the various licensing restrictions and embargoes that are conditional on everyone, and librarians spending extra dollars – and a disproportionate amount of time – on e-book purchases is something we deal with every day in Newtown.

Connecticut State Librarian Deborah Schander said, “Libraries are at a critical time. Two years into this pandemic, they are providing both traditional and innovative services to their communities, but not without figurative and literal costs. A particular pressure point is the cost of providing electronic hardware, which is much higher than that associated with printed books. With more people borrowing eBooks and audiobooks than ever, it’s time to talk about ways we can support our library collections and their outcomes.

Ellen Paul, Executive Director of the Connecticut Library Consortium, said, “I appreciate Senator Hwang’s leadership on the critical issue of inflated library e-book costs.

Paul said this issue affects all Connecticut taxpayers who support their local library with their hard-earned taxes.

“Libraries routinely pay four to five times what consumers pay for the same eBooks, then are forced to repurchase the same titles every year, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars over the life of a single book. electronics and makes a strong e-book collection beyond the reach of many libraries. Publishers have been taking advantage of libraries and taxpayers for far too long, and I commend Senator Hwang for bringing this critical issue to the public’s attention. access and equity for Connecticut residents,” added Paul.

Senator Hwang emphasized that public and private libraries are gathering spaces, social hubs for residents of all ages, educational outlets, community connectors as well as a vital method for people to access resources and to information.

“I am deeply concerned about the growing challenges Connecticut libraries are facing in providing Internet access, educational programs, physical library materials and digital resources,” Hwang said. “These are issues of social equity, access and affordability. Libraries offer seniors a way out of their isolation at home as well as a way for new families to connect with their child’s future classmates in the city. Regardless of your age, socio-economic background, and information needs, I’m here to say I love our libraries.

The Legislature’s bipartisan Planning and Development Committee raised SB 131 and will hold a legislative public hearing Feb. 25 on reducing the digital cost of e-books to better support Connecticut libraries and will schedule a public hearing in the coming weeks. future.

Importantly, library leaders and legislators respect the delicate balance between copyright protection, municipal funding, and the unique challenges of public policy on public/private corporations, but look forward to a ongoing conversation in search of solutions that will work for all stakeholders. .

At 11 a.m. on Friday, February 25, the Planning and Development Committee was scheduled to hold a virtual public hearing on SB No. 131, legislation regarding e-book licensing. Video of the hearing was to be posted on the Connecticut CT-N government network.

Sen Tony Hwang at a recent event regarding funding for Connecticut State Libraries.

Sen Tony Hwang and state and local librarians at a recent local library funding event.

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