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National Initiative Opens Access to Digital Library Resources for the Print Disabled

December 3, 2013

Vancouver, B.C. – December 3, 2013 – Canadians with print disabilities will receive increased open access to digital library resources, thanks to an innovative new project launching in communities across the country.

Beginning with public libraries in Saskatchewan in January 2014, the Canadian Accessible Library Service (CALS) will offer free and open digital access to more than 10,000 titles, including popular novels, classics, and non-fiction. Another 40,000 new titles are expected to be added by next summer, and services are scheduled to be extended through participating public libraries in Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Yukon by July 2014.

Developed by the BC Libraries Cooperative and funded primarily by provincial partners in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, CALS is part of the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS). NNELS is an ambitious grassroots plan aimed at helping libraries to better serve their print disabled patrons, particularly in rural and remote areas, by providing libraries with affordable access to digital resources in accessible formats.

“Our mission is to help libraries help people,” said Ben Hyman, Executive Director of the BC Libraries Cooperative. “By drawing upon the resource sharing potential of the Internet, NNELS and now CALS helps libraries do what they do best – provide free and accessible library services to all Canadians, regardless of their income, background, location or print disability.”

CALS helps libraries of all sizes combine resources and collections to allow free and open access to a vast selection of titles, as well as improved services for print-disabled patrons. Print disabilities include:

  • Severe or total impairment of sight or the inability to focus or move one’s eyes;
  • The inability to hold or manipulate a book; and/or,
  • An impairment relating to comprehension.

“Millions of Canadians experience print disabilities but they shouldn’t be robbed of the joy of reading,” said Hyman. “CALS helps libraries provide their patrons with equal access to the same wonderful books enjoyed by everyone else.”

Joining CALS is optional, with up to 3000 Canadian libraries eligible to share in the project and the technology that powers it. The BC Libraries Cooperative continues to work with other provinces and libraries to further expand the service across Canada. For more information on how library patrons with print disabilities and public libraries can take advantage of the new service, visit https://nnels.ca.

About BC Libraries Cooperative

BC Libraries Cooperative is a 100% Canadian, non-profit community enterprise strategically focused on the delivery of shared operational infrastructure and resources for our diverse members – over 100 institutions and organizations across Canada. Simply put, we strive to improve efficiency, reduce costs and extend service delivery in libraries. Visit us at https://bc.libraries.coop.


Media Contact:                    Shawna Cadieux, Boldt Communications Inc.
(250) 896-7597     Email: Shawna.Cadieux@shaw.ca