SLA Joins Call for Greater Digital Access
Transition to digital materials risks limiting access to information
McLean, Virginia, U.S.A., 6 January 2022—The Special Libraries Association has joined with more than 50 organizations and 270 concerned individuals in signing a statement calling for legal and regulatory changes that would enable libraries to provide their communities with greater access to digital materials.
The statement was developed by Library Futures, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on expanding access to information, preserving and expanding the ability of libraries to lend materials, and ensuring community privacy. SLA is a founding partner of Library Futures.
“[A]s we transition from physical media to digital, the rights of libraries to provide digital access to information and preserve materials for the future is under attack,” the statement asserts. “Proprietary publishers do not respect the balance provided by copyright law, as they refuse to sell e-books and audiobooks to libraries, sue to halt the common library practice of controlled digital lending, and charge exorbitant prices for e-books and e-resources in the education, health services, and public library markets. This is affecting researchers and our economy in turn, as access to digital material has ironically become more difficult than access to the analog.”
The statement champions several changes to copyright and digital licensing regulations and processes, including the following:
- Updating copyright for the digital age, with exceptions and limitations made for libraries to best serve the public;
- Providing legal protection for controlled digital lending and other innovative lending practices;
- Ensuring full access to information by libraries and cultural institutions through digital first sale, the principle of exhaustion in intellectual property law, and ownership of digital objects; and
- Allowing libraries to purchase and lend all e-resources at reasonable prices.
“We are coming together to rethink copyright and help usher in a sustainable future for libraries,” the statement asserts. “Unfair licensing terms and a lack of clarity in digital copyright law to protect the public could spell the end of libraries as they have existed for millennia. The market must be corrected by smart policy, limitations and exceptions, and a community approach that respects the right to lend.”
“Access to information is the lifeblood of healthy societies, communities, organizations, and people, and libraries play an essential role—perhaps the foremost role—in ensuring such access,” said Catherine Lavallée-Welch, 2022 SLA president and university librarian at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. “The members of SLA stand with our fellow library and information professionals around the world and with groups like Library Futures to advocate for the rights of libraries and their customers in the digital age.”
The Special Libraries Association (SLA) is a nonprofit international organization for innovative information professionals and their strategic partners. SLA serves information professionals in more than 60 countries and in a range of working environments, including business, academia and government agencies. SLA promotes and strengthens its members through learning, advocacy and networking initiatives. For more information, visit sla.org.