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The National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) is a repository of content owned and sustained by Canadian public libraries. We work with international partners, libraries, readers, and publishers (particularly Canadian ones) to make copies of books in accessible formats available to readers in Canada who have print disabilities. 

Perceptual disabilities (commonly known as “print disabilities”) include three broad categories of people who require accessible formats:

  • severe or total impairment of sight or hearing or the inability to focus or move one’s eyes,
  • the inability to hold or manipulate a book, or
  • an impairment relating to comprehension.

Numbers from Statistics Canada suggests that about 10% of Canadians may have a print disability, which limits people’s ability to read in traditional print format. Many people who do not currently have a print disability will have one in the future.

NNELS is fully funded and supported by the provincial governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon. The service provider for NNELS is the BC Libraries Cooperative, a non-profit Community Services Cooperative which is a shared service provider to libraries and library-related organizations in Canada.

Fast Facts about NNELS

  • Since NNELS launched in December 2013, approximately 1,750 users have registered for accounts, and an additional number of readers receive service directly from their public libraries.
  • As of April 2018, there have been 16,000 downloads from the website and in 2017 there were about 21,000 visitors to
  • As of April 2018, there are nearly 35,000 titles in the NNELS collection. Books in NNELS are available in English and French. Priorities for collection development are books in Indigenous and international languages.
  • Books in NNELS are available in multiple formats: DAISY 2 (10,000 files), DAISY 3 (150), MP3 (5,000), e-text (1,200), EPUB 2 (17,000), EPUB 3 (2,500), PDF (1,000) and BRF (150).
  • Audiobooks in NNELS are available in both human narration (90% of audiobooks) and synthetic voice (10%).
  • The annual budget for NNELS is approximately $500,000 (including in-kind contributions to the network) which works out to $0.03 per capita for Canadians in the participating jurisdictions.

The NNELS Potential…

The information environment for people with print disabilities has seen a revolution thanks to inexpensive and customizable technology built with open standards and universal design principles. While readers and librarians are frequently dismayed by the stark contrast between the abundance of technology and the shortage of accessible content, they are also excited about what changing technology means for access to books. 

Reports are that less than 5% of published works are available in accessible formats, but with NNELS, librarians and readers have instant access to thousands of books and the ability to request whatever they cannot find in accessible formats. 

At NNELS, we do our best to:

  • Work with our provincial and territorial partners to develop a cost-effective, predictable, and healthy funding model for accessible online library services;
  • Grow and support outstanding public library service with, and for people with, perceptual disabilities;
  • Protect the privacy of our users;
  • Encourage the peer production of information, knowledge, and culture;
  • Facilitate learning and sharing information with our partners;
  • Use open standards and accessible tools.

As populations shift, a growing number people will require and benefit from accessible library services. NNELS will work with your public library to provide that access.

To find out if your library is participating in NNELS, please see our list of participating libraries, or use the Sign-Up page to search and check your library’s status.