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Teleconference discussion on March 4th: The future of library services in Canada

On Tuesday, March 4th at 8pm Eastern, Sharlyn Ayotte will be hosting a teleconference discussion to explore the future of library services in Canada. This session is intended to tell you a little of what we know so far, and to gather your viewpoints and feedback to inform AEBC's next steps.

Background information: As many of you know, the topic of so-called 'accessible library service' has been front and center over the past couple of years. AEBC has been advancing the notion that accessible, alternative-format library services should be provided by government just as public library services currently are. CNIB, as the holder of the largest alternative format collection in Canada, has agreed in principle with our approach, and is on the record as believing that library services ought to be provided by government and not by a charity.

Alas, the government has yet to really step forward and take a lead on this initiative. Despite programs like the Initiative for Equitable Library Access (IELA), the status quo has remained, and CNIB remains tasked with running its library for the benefit of print-disabled Canadians.

The library community is now taking a lead role in shaping a future for alternative-format library services. Two initiatives have sprung up. The first has been spawned in British Columbia and is known as NNELS/CALS (the National Network for Equitable Library Service), and (in the simplest of terms) amounts to a means of consolidating catalogues of alternative format materials from member libraries to more effectively enable interlibrary loans. The second, the brainchild of the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC), is known as CELA (the Centre for Equitable Library Access), and appears to be intended as more of a central "hub", similar to how the CNIB library works now, but CELA has been set up as a separate and distinct non-profit organization. CELA envisions funding coming from member libraries as well as the government and CNIB.

These models are not exclusive. Conceivably a particular public library could belong to both networks. What isn't clear, as a result, is which of these models is better for us as the blind and partially sighted community. What isn't clear, is which "initiative" AEBC and the blind community in general should be putting its weight behind.

Attached to this email are three documents which were acquired in the course of the Ontario Library Association's conference earlier this year, and compiled from various web sites. Our understanding of how the NNELS differs from the CELA, at this time, is in the nature of their collection, the fact that the NNELS will not likely be producing accessible format materials for a long time, as the CELA will be doing. It seems much of NNELS' material comes from Australia. It is not clear how the NNELS will be obtaining copyright permission. We believe the CELA will be working directly with library vendors and publishing companies.

What are your thoughts? Join us by teleconference on Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 at 8:00pm Eastern to discuss.

To join the session, call one of the following local numbers and use PIN code "5066122".

EDMONTON: 1-780-800-7211
CALGARY: 1-403-770-7859
MONTREAL: 1-514-667-3585
OTTAWA: 1-613-699-7020
TORONTO: 1-416-800-0658
VANCOUVER: 1-778-785-6847

For more information, or if you would like to provide feedback in writing, please contact Sharlyn Ayotte at


This blog is curated by the AEBC, but welcomes contributions from members and non-members alike. The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in the Blind Canadians Blog are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the AEBC, its members, or any of its donors and partners.