The library world is buzzing about the impact of e-books on the future of libraries. NEKLS librarians have had some excellent email discussions about ebooks during recent weeks. I would like to suggest just a few thoughts about this issue:

  1. E-books are here to stay, and we can not afford to ignore them. The widespread adoption of ebooks may be the greatest challenge to libraries since the creation of the Internet.
  2. The sky is not falling. Print books are certainly not going away in the foreseeable future, and libraries certainly are not going away. NEKLS libraries have always demonstrated that they are able to adapt to change in order to provide great library service. That’s why we call our member libraries leaders and innovators in the NEKLS vision statement. The Internet was an even more profound change in how knowledge is shared and communicated, and once we accepted that we all have made that a central part of library service. Libraries are more than just book collections, and ebooks are a new opportunity to show what we can do.
  3. There are several steps that we need to be taking in the near future:
  • Help our library patrons to download ebooks onto their readers (Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc.) NEKLS is already working on a training program that will prepare library staff to do that.
  • Begin a conversation in the Kansas library community about responses to the ebooks issue.
  • The State Library of Kansas is working with other State Libraries and publishers to develop a long term solution to providing downloadable “loans” of ebooks that will greatly expanded from the current Overdrive service.
  • I encourage libraries to plan ahead for ebook licensing fees as a part of their materials budget, and to think of local collections, licensing fees, public access computers and broadband connectivity as all part of the “package” of providing materials and information to their communities.