The Public Libraries – Electronic Literary Product Licenses – Access Law (HB518/SB432) will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022 and is designed to help maintain equal access for readers across Maryland and setting a precedent nationwide.

The legislation, embraced by both Democrats and Republicans and supported by Gov. Larry Hogan, will require “a publisher who offers to license an electronic literary product to the public to also offer to license the product to public libraries in the State on reasonable terms that would enable public libraries to provide library users with access to the electronic literary product.”

Libraries are currently working with publishers to establish mutually beneficial agreements for the good of Maryland readers and learners. A start to this process is the release by Maryland Library Association (MLA) of the attached Statement on Maryland’s Digital Content Law. This statement offers a way to frame the discussion around digital content and help set terms.

Before the law was passed, most publishers made their full catalogs available to libraries in some form. Conditions for borrowing varied and often may not have been defined as “reasonable” by library systems, and even Amazon does not make its exclusive digital content available to libraries. Maryland’s public libraries are committed to making sure that all members of our community have equitable access to library resources.

“Converging on ‘reasonable terms’ must engage all stakeholders. ALA applauds the Maryland Library Association for its approach in proposing a framework and encouraging discussion. Libraries need access to the full range of published digital content and are willing to pay a fair price for it – but not more,” said Patty Wong, American Library Association (ALA) president.