For immediate release | June 1, 2021

ALA Joint Digital Content Working Group paper calls for improved access, licensing models, pricing to serve readers

CHICAGO - “The Need for Change: A Position Paper on E-Lending by the ALA Joint Digital Content Working Group” examines digital lending in public, academic, and K-12 school libraries. The paper notes current and long-standing challenges in digital content lending and the issues that complicate acquisition of, user access to, and preservation of digital information.

The pandemic continues to fuel increased demand for digital content and has highlighted the importance of digital media within U.S. libraries. According to OverDrive, a leading provider of digital library content, in 2020, readers worldwide borrowed more than 430 million ebooks, audiobooks, and digital magazines, an increase of 33% compared with 2019 figures.

As patrons continue to discover and rely on digital content, libraries continue their fight for fair pricing, multiple licensing models, and full access to digital content.

Current publisher licensing models impede library purchases and create information barriers that leave patrons who depend on digital library collections for education and enrichment with long waits or, worse yet, searches that yield no results.

Publishers’ limited licensing models are not the only barriers impeding robust collections. The paper also identifies issues with content provider platforms that cannot support multiple license models simultaneously, even if publishers offer options.

“If we don’t modify current problematic licensing and delivery models, libraries of all types will struggle to meet an ever-increasing demand for digital materials,” said Kelvin Watson, co-chair of the ALA Joint Digital Content Working Group. “Existing license models are not sustainable for libraries. Library users are being excluded from reading as surely by those models as they are by the physical barriers to borrowing created by the pandemic.”

The paper serves as a call to action for publishers to offer licensing models that are cost-effective and flexible and for library digital content providers to revamp platforms to support flexible licensing models, robust collections and enhance accessibility features.

Additional information about the Joint Digital Working Group committee and “The Need for Change: A Position Paper on E-Lending by the ALA Joint Digital Content Working Group,” is available at .

The American Library Association established a Joint Working Group on eBooks and Digital Content in Libraries following a resolution passed by ALA’s Council in June 2019 and supported by the ALA Executive Board in October 2019. The Working Group, representing ALA and related library organizations, works to address library concerns with publishers and content providers. The committee works to explore, analyze, and share information on various options for improving access to digital content for libraries and the public and identifying models and strategies to influence decision-makers.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government, and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library's role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit


Jenny Levine

Director of Advocacy, Connections, and Engagement

Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures