Right now our libraries do not have access to all the e-books that are public.
And some material is only available as e-books, which means that as a user of a library you cannot have access unless you are willing to pay for it
That’s entirely different than anything we’ve seen in 150 years of public libraries.
If we can’t get access to e-books, how can we provide access to existing knowledge of the world and contemporary thought ?
This is a whole new area. And it’s very concerning to us in libraries. We see our job as providing access to all the information and all published material.
We know how to do it in a physical world, but now are blocked in the electronic world. That is a problem.
Globe North: When will it get worked out?
Maier: We’ve been at this now with the e-book issue for about three years.
I’m guessing it is anywhere from two to five years before we reach some solid understanding of terms where libraries can get access to e-book resources. And there is always the potential we won’t reach that point.
From the publishers’ point of view, their whole industry is being turned on its head by this e-publishing phenomenon. They have their own challenges.
Our job is to point out what we have to deal with.
Globe North: Will that be successful?
Maier: I am an eternal optimist and I believe libraries and the publishing industry will find the right way to meet that challenge and, to be honest, we have to.
From a library point of view, we have no choice. We have to find middle ground so we can get e-books to users.
Globe North: Given the challenges, will libraries remain relevant?
Maier: There is no question libraries will continue to be relevant in people’s lives. If you look at the sweep of services public libraries provide, they are always there with materials, resources, and programs.
Many libraries in the 19th century had a big focus on community programming, active programs for adults as well as kids. We are seeing a rebirth of that.
Globe North: And what is in the future?
Maier: We are a long way from the day — if it ever comes — when your public library won’t have printed books. . . . But libraries will adapt, as they always have, to another format of material. . . . Libraries have always followed the consumer market.
Globe North: Sounds like an interesting time for libraries?
Maier: It’s a very exciting time. With anything that has challenges comes great opportunity.
Globe North: And what is the future for you, personally ?
Maier: I have a lot of work to do on my house in Salem. I have a research project looking at people who lived in the homes in a square block on Essex Street in Salem.
I started it 20 years ago, and put it aside, and am looking forward to have time to continue that. Fascinating people lived in that small area and I am determined to get to know them.
I’ll do some family research. And I love to travel.
Wendy Killeen can be reached at email@example.com.