Public libraries and the ebook content they provide have made news earlier this week with the discovery that not all U.S.-based public libraries are allowed to purchase the same digital titles for their patrons while using OverDrive’s catalogs of materials. But a step in the right direction toward equal access to content for public library patrons has been made in the UK through Google’s sponsoring partnership with Bloomsbury’s Public Library Online.
Google will be sponsoring two virtual shelves through PLO, one on the environment and one on Shakespeare through the Arden Shakespeare series; the Shakespeare virtual shelf will make ten plays that are on the GCSE national curriculum available to all users.
“We have been talking to Bloomsbury for a little while,” said Google copyright policy and communications manager Simon Morrison. “We’re sponsoring the two shelves because we share interests with the PLO; it’s useful to libraries who may have funding and space issues that prevent them from stocking more books, and it is adding another way of accessing content for users. We are interested in it because we think it is a great project, and increases access online.”
The current sponsorship arrangement will make these works available to public libraries throughout the UK, a welcome move in times when libraries are often struggling to afford diverse and sought-after ebooks. The current agreement is only for one year, but Google has already stated that it is interested in considering a renewal of the agreement after careful evaluation of this year’s project.
Public Library Online currently makes ebooks available to libraries through its subscription service from a wide variety of publishers.