Ebooks & Interlibrary Loan

It is undeniable that libraries today are devoting increasing amounts of time and resources to building and expanding access to electronic resources. Patrons want this access and libraries have done an admirable job providing it for them. However a fact that often gets lost in the discussion of e-resources is that it limits the ability of institutions to share materials with each other. Interlibrary loan has long been an essential component of library services, allowing libraries to lend items to each other to fulfill patron requests. Such lending worked very well with print materials but due to the licensing restrictions that often are inherent to electronic resources, it is almost impossible for libraries to share digital items. But it is equally impossible for libraries to purchase all the materials that could possibly be requested or needed by their patrons so resource sharing between institutions is still as essential as it has always been.

At the most recent ALA convention in San Francisco, a coalition of libraries presented their solution to this dilemma. Occam’s Reader is a software program developed by Texas Tech University, the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the Greater Western Library Alliance. Working in conjunction with Springer eBooks, they have developed a system of electronic lending that mimics a traditional print loan as much as possible.  The Occam Reader makes a “copy” of each electronic page and transmits it via a zip file with a temporary time-limited access. Much like the loan of a print book, the patron can only read the material, albeit with electronic items the reading is done within the Occam Reader software. The patron cannot print the material out in its entirety nor can they retain a copy of the file indefinitely.

Occam’s Reader is a prime example of a library-driven solution. Libraries should not be passive and expect vendors of e-resources to develop programs like this. There is no real impetus for the vendors to do so. In order to ensure that libraries can continue to provide services that are valued by patrons and to provide materials in the formats patrons want, libraries need to be advocates and work with vendors to develop solutions.

For more information on the Occam’s Reader program and to use a demo, visit http://occamsreader.org/.

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalogue Librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317)232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.