Using American Rescue Plan Act funds for purchase of digital books for US libraries
Over the past several weeks, we here at OverDrive have been in dialog with leadership from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), and top publishing houses to learn the details of and help facilitate how U.S. libraries can use funds under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) for digital books and materials.
IMLS has provided details of the legislation to state library leaders (through COSLA) and the industry. We expect this will be the first of several updates for you, including FAQs, and represents our best understanding at this time.
The purpose of the ARPA funding is for U.S. libraries to provide pandemic response and relief. This can take many forms to enable wellness and back-to-work, prevent learning loss, and address other pandemic-related services. The funding also allows libraries to purchase a variety of content and media. ARPA legislation requires that funds for materials and services are used during the period June 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022 (16 months). A key component of the legislation is that all libraries must report on the use of funds following the term.
Publisher lending models we offer today that comply with ARPA
The purchase of “materials” allows ARPA funds to be used for print books, as well as digital books under the “One Copy, One User (OCOU)” model (no metered expiration). U.S. libraries can order OCOU collections with ARPA funds beginning June 1, 2021. These titles will be available throughout the 16-month term and beyond, as titles purchased in OCOU do not have an expiration date.
Similarly, U.S. libraries can also take advantage of the Cost per Circulation (CPC) model. Many publishers offer this model via OverDrive Marketplace. Libraries are charged based on usage. ARPA funds can be used for this model starting June 1, 2021 and cannot be used after September 30, 2022. IMLS has confirmed that if a library selects and offers CPC titles using ARPA funds, there is no requirement that the access to those materials must be throughout the 16-month ARPA term. For example, ARPA funds may be used on CPC titles whose budgeted amounts are expended prior to September 30, 2022.
OverDrive’s catalog of “Simultaneous Use” titles also complies with ARPA requirements as long as the order is placed and availability to patrons starts after June 1, 2021 and ends on or before September 30, 2022.
Now the challenging part: A new ARPA-Prorated Metered Access Model
IMLS has clarified and confirmed that Metered Access (MA) digital books may be categorized as a “service” and not as “materials” under ARPA. Service purchases may not comply with ARPA requirements if the term extends beyond September 30, 2022.
The top 5 U.S. publishers offer ebooks to U.S. libraries under MA library terms, with the 24-month access term being the most popular option. When we learned that the MA 24-month model might either be rejected for library use of ARPA funds, or risk that 33% or more of the amount allocated to MA 24-month titles might not qualify, we reached out to publishers to request their collaboration in finding a solution that supports use of ARPA funds.
Because we know all libraries may not be ready to place their opening ARPA orders on June 1, 2021, we asked publishers to provide OverDrive (and all vendors) permission to take the MA 24-month model and prorate the term and the cost to the libraries to align with the 16-month term of ARPA.
The first publisher to respond and answer “yes” to this request was Penguin Random House (PRH). Skip Dye, who leads PRH library advocacy, was also the first publisher last year to provide COVID response and relief by creating the 12 month/50% cost option. Now PRH has confirmed that U.S. libraries can plan and utilize ARPA funds for prorated PRH ebooks. We are grateful to PRH for this prompt response to support our nation’s libraries.
How we expect it to work
U.S. libraries will be able to select and prepare carts for ARPA funds in OverDrive Marketplace. When titles normally under the MA 24-month model are added to an ARPA order that is placed on June 1, 2020, prorated pricing will be based on 16 months. In this example, titles acquired for the entire term (June 1, 2021 – September 30, 2022), will be charged at the rate of 66.6% of the 24-month price. For titles purchased later than June 1, 2021, the price would be prorated on a monthly basis accordingly. For example, if the library made a PRH ARPA purchase on April 1, 2022 for 6 months, the prorated price would be 25% of the 24-month digital library price.
All ARPA prorated orders will start from the date the order is placed and will expire on September 30, 2022. In no case will a prorated term exceed 16 months of library availability. In addition, the prorated percentage will be subject to an established floor of 15% of the 24-month price; no prorated price will be less than this amount. This ARPA-Prorated Metered Access Model is in addition to all current library models and does not replace or eliminate any current models.
FAQs coming soon with publisher updates
The OverDrive team is now working to facilitate how we streamline the ability to select, order, serve, report and comply with ARPA requirements. There are numerous workflows in development that will impact the ordering and reporting on use of funds. We are here to make this work to enable library partners to continue to serve your communities of readers. Our team will provide regular updates to keep you current on this quickly developing set of services so be sure to subscribe to the OverDrive blogs to stay informed.