The Globe and Mail featured an interesting article today on a 66 year old program used by Canadian libraries for inter-library loans and the delivery of books to rural and remote areas. The program provides subsidized funding that enables Canada Post to deliver the books for about a dollar each. Canada Post is apparently threatening to cancel the plan next March unless the government steps to provide financial support. Canadian Heritage has lent some financial support in the past, but does not do so at the present time. The article concludes with a quote from a Canadian Heritage official refusing to speculate on whether it would step in with support to keep the program alive.
Of course, there is an alternate way for the government to support inter-library loans and greater access to knowledge in rural and remote areas. It is called the Internet. The problem with an Internet-focused approach is not financial (though support for broadband in rural areas is needed). Rather, it is copyright. The Supreme Court opened the door to electronic delivery systems in the LSUC v. CCH case but the Copyright Act itself, which contains some library specific provisions, remains quite restrictive. Bill C-60 includes some provisions for electronic delivery, but as I noted a couple of weeks ago, those provisions are tepid at best. There is a remarkable opportunity staring the government in the face, yet it discouragingly seems determined to avoid it all costs.