New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Halifax Public Libraries have partnered with the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association on a Read Atlantic project, launching a new collection of 100 Atlantic-published eBooks that are more accessible than ever. From June 15th to July 15th, 100 eBooks will be available to all library users with no holds or waitlists. All of them will include accessibility features that make the eBooks accessible for library users with print disabilities.
The collection includes some of the spring season’s hottest new releases as well as award-winning books like Dirty Birds by Morgan Murray (winner of the 2021 APMA Best Atlantic-Published Book Award and shortlisted for the 2021 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour), Acadian Driftwood by Tyler Leblanc (winner of the 2021 Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award and Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing), The Spoon Stealer by Lesley Crewe (winner of the 2021 Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction), and B Pour Bayou by Richard Guidry and illustrated by Réjean Roy (winner of Les Éloizes Artist of the Year in literature for the book’s illustrations).
There are 65 English and 35 French books from 16 different Atlantic publishers, spanning multiple genres, including fiction, short stories, history, biography and memoir, local interest, poetry, young adult and children’s books.
Libraries in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick selected the eBooks from Atlantic publishers for their “Read Atlantic” digital collections. In ordinary circumstances, the eBooks would be available for one reader at a time. But from June 15th – July 15th, the 100 featured eBooks will be available for immediate borrowing and simultaneous reading by library patrons, with no holds or waitlists.
Some libraries have experimented with this kind of borrowing for single titles in the past — for instance, Amy Spurway’s Crow saw 800+ checkouts in one week in 2020 when it was featured through Nova Scotia and Halifax Public Libraries, but this is the first time that a collection of local eBooks of this size has been made available for simultaneous reading by an unlimited number of library patrons in the region.
eBook borrowing has seen a big increase during the pandemic and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Public Libraries have seen an increase in new library patrons as well. Cynthia Gatto, manager of collection development for Halifax Public Libraries, said they gained over 10,000 new users during the past year since they created an option to sign up for a library card online, and last year was the first year they passed one million circulations on their OverDrive platform. Emanuel Actarian, head of collection management for New Brunswick Public Library Service noted that NBPLS initially had a 400% increase in the number of new users and over 100% increase in circulation on digital platforms at the start of the pandemic. Circulation continues to remain 50% higher than average, even as the province has begun its re-opening plan.
With such a wide selection of books, publishers and libraries expect the collection to be a popular one. The eBooks will be available on demand for all library users to borrow and download to the device they choose – all that’s needed is a library card and an internet connection.
Library users who wish to borrow eBooks from the Read Atlantic collection may borrow through their regular channels (OverDrive and the Libby app in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and for French readers in New Brunswick, through PretNumerique.ca and the corresponding app). Since some accessibility features are still in development for these platforms, the full collection will also be available on the accessible platforms of the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) in Nova Scotia and the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
This innovative pilot project allows all library users in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to discover and access local books from their libraries more than ever before. If successful, the pilot project will point the way to achieving new levels of awareness and use of accessible Canadian-authored digital books as they become available to public library systems.
Accessibility is at the heart of the project. Books featured in the collection incorporate accessibility features that allow for assistive technologies to read and navigate the text, such as image descriptions and reflowable formats, and allow for changes to elements like colour and font size (more information about print disabilities and accessible eBooks is available from NNELS and CELA). The project is made possible, in part, as a result of funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Accessible Digital Books program, which encourages the Canadian book industry to increase the availability of “born accessible” Canadian-authored digital books.
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