Southwest Public Libraries is calling upon Congress to help ensure patrons can access e-books.

Southwest Public Libraries is calling upon Congress to help ensure patrons can access e-books.

At its regular meeting Nov. 12, the SPL board of trustees voted 5-0 to approve a resolution asking that the Ohio members of the United States Congress seek a legislative solution to "ensure public access to e-book materials through public libraries."

Chairwoman Lisa Leasure and trustees Kay Byard, Jill Billman-Royer, Richard Curtiss and Janet Shailer voted for the resolution. Trustees Donna Carter and Patricia Moncman were absent from the meeting.

Library director Mark Shaw said the resolution comes from the Ohio Library Council.

"Lots of publishers do not want to sell us (libraries) e-books," he said. "We clearly know the demand for it."

Shaw said Southwest Public Libraries now loans out about 5,000 e-books a month, an increase from 3,500 a month just last year.

"We just started it a few years ago, and it's been going up exponentially ever since," he said.

While some publishers refuse to sell e-books to public libraries, others, Shaw said, are charging "exorbitant" prices, in some cases marking up a title from $9 for an individual to $84 for a library.

The resolution notes these restrictions limits information to "only those who can afford to purchase it."

According to information from the OLC, e-books are rapidly growing in popularity with library customers, but the increased demand is being stymied by some major publishers refusing to sell or license e-books to libraries.

"By denying libraries access to e-books, or making them cost prohibitive, publishers have ushered in a major change to public policy -- a policy that should be fully examined and considered by policy makers and the public at large" according to the OLC. "It's about access to all the e-book titles held by major publishers. It's about providing access to educational materials so all children are able to compete in the global, digital economy. It's about promoting and maintaining an informed citizenry."

Shaw said libraries have worked out arrangements with other publishers to offer e-books. The typical life of a physical library book, Shaw said, is about 20 checkouts before it becomes too deteriorated to use, thus requiring a new copy to be purchased. Some libraries are agreeing to buy new digital copies of books after a similar number of uses, Shaw said.

"I don't think libraries have any issue with that," he said. "They're totaling denying access."

Curtiss said the attitude of those publishers is not "very charitable to learning."

"I like the idea of some government action looking for a middle ground," he said.

Billman-Royer said she's glad the OLC is taking the lead on this issue.

"It's something other states haven't really touched on," she said. "Hopefully, it has some sort of successful resolution."

Shaw said copies of the resolution would be sent to all Ohio representatives and both senators.

In other news from the SPL board of trustees meeting Nov. 12:

* The board voted to accept of $1,000 for the Grove City Library from the Women's Civic Club of Grove City.

* The board had its first reading to the library's public service policies. Currently, smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco products are not allowed in the library buildings or on library grounds, and under the proposed changes to the policy, this prohibition will be extended to include electronic cigarettes and other "vaporizing nicotine delivery devices." The vote will come at the board's next meeting.

* From 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 30, the board of trustees will hold its annual board and administrative retreat at the Westland Area Library, 4740 W. Broad St. in Columbus. No official action will be taken by the board at the retreat.

The next regular meeting of the board is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the Westland Library.