Introduction to the Issue 

It is vitally important that libraries are able to offer access to information and resources online. Not only do users expect to be able to access content and information from their libraries digitally, but e-resources often provide more accessible options to individuals with disabilities.

Providing access to e-resources is fraught with challenges - from vendor and provider fees, to publisher embargoes, to limits on who can access what content where and when. These restrictions, coupled with increasing demand for e-resources, undermine a core value of librarianship: equitable access to information.

Use this page to explore what RAILS and libraries are doing to improve access to electronic resources (databases and online services) and e-content (e-books, audiobooks, and digital magazines).

Illinois State Library E-Resource Program

In 2023, the Illinois Office of the Secretary of State included $5 million in their budget for an e-resource package that will be available without charge to all Illinois libraries and their patrons. Learn more about the ISL E-Resource Program.

Access to E-Content

Equitable access to e-content in libraries is being threatened by unfair pricing structures and distribution practices from the "Big 5" publishers.

E-books cost libraries up to six times more than they cost consumers, and library e-book licenses often expire after a set period of time or number of checkouts. These restrictions, coupled with increasing demand for e-books and audiobooks, undermine a core value of librarianship: equitable access to information.

We encourage you to use the resources available on this website to become more informed and to take action.

What RAILS Is Doing 

E-Resources and E-Content Platforms

RAILS offers access to e-content platforms to improve access to e-content across Illinois, as well as to disrupt the impact of traditional purchasing models by finding new ways of providing e-content.

  • eRead Illinois Boundless is an affordable popular materials e-content collection available to RAILS libraries.
  • The Library is a collection of simultaneous use e-books available to everyone in Illinois at no cost to libraries.
  • provides everyone in Illinois with tools to self-publish their own e-books at no cost to libraries.
  • Check out the Deals and Discounts page for discounts on e-resources for RAILS member libraries.

Networking Opportunities

  • Join the Electronic Subscription Managers (ELSUM) Network Group, to discuss issues and information regarding services and databases delivered electronically. Vendor demos and troubleshooting issues are commonly on the agenda. Open to librarians, meets bimonthly, communication via a Google Groups list.

Analysis and Other Work

  • Vendor Privacy Policy Pilot Project for RAILS Public Libraries: Participate in the Vendor Privacy Policy Pilot Project for RAILS public libraries. The webpage contains links to privacy policies for third-party vendors who provide e-resources to public libraries.
  • Web Accessibility: Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) Project: Participate in the VPAT Project for RAILS public libraries. The webpage helps libraries understand web accessibility, how to vet e-resources and contains links to VPATs.
  • View RAILS' analysis of The Impact of COVID-19 Related Closures on Library E-Content Usage.
  • RAILS is involved at the national level with the American Library Association (ALA) and the Core Ebooks Interest Group.
    • Former Executive Director Deirdre Brennan helped draft the "Resolution on eBook Pricing for Libraries" passed by the ALA Council in June 2019. The resolution calls for ALA to create a joint working group to address library concerns with publishers and content providers. It also calls for the development of a public awareness campaign to provide accurate information to publishers on the value of libraries purchasing books.​

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