Centre for Equitable Library Access

Link to the Centre for Equitable Library Access.

CELA is a national not-for-profit organization run by public libraries for public libraries. CULC/CBUC initiated the creation along with partner CNIB. CELA is a national not-for-profit organization run by public libraries for public libraries.


Equitable public library services for Canadians with print disabilities.


To support public libraries in the provision of accessible collections for Canadians with print disabilities and to champion the fundamental right of Canadians with print disabilities to access media and reading materials in the format of their choice, including audio, braille, e-text and described video.


To acquire, produce, and distribute published works in alternative formats to Canadian public libraries and to provide public libraries with advice, training, and information to support their patrons’ access to and use of these collections.

CELA collections and services are available to patrons with print disabilities who are members of a public library funded to receive our services, either by their province/territory or through a local library subscription.

Eligible patrons of CELA member libraries have access to more than 300,000 items in accessible formats including audio, braille, and electronic text. More than 600 public library systems across Canada are currently members of CELA.

Current Board of Directors – 2021

  • Peter Bailey, Library Director, St. Albert Public Library
  • Catherine Biss, (Chair) Chief Librarian Markham Public Library
  • Grace Dawson, Branch and Community Services Librarian, Prince Edward Island Public Library Service
  • Jefferson Gilbert, Executive Director, Canadian Urban Libraries Council
  • Teresa Johnson, Research & Planning Librarian, New Brunswick Public Library Services
  • Åsa Kachan, CEO, Halifax Public Library
  • Tara Wong, CEO, Oakville Public Library
  • Gwen Schmidt, Manager, Branches, Saskatoon Public Library

Laurie Davidson, Executive Director, Centre for Equitable Library

HISTORY:  Canadian Public Library Accessible Formats Initiative

The Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) has been working with CNIB since June 2012 to envision a new national organization, removed from CNIB, which builds on the national digital hub model originally proposed by CNIB – whose focus is the creation, collection, distribution, and preservation of alternative format works for Canadians living with print disabilities. The collections and services of the new organization will be available to Canadians through their public libraries.

This service builds on the extensive publicly supported infrastructure created by the CNIB and the service expertise and priorities of local public libraries. It is a community-based solution created by public libraries for public libraries, in partnership with CNIB.

We plan for the service to be available to all Canadian public libraries for subscription as soon as the first quarter of 2014.

Does the new organization support all public libraries?

The new organization is open to public libraries of all sizes and their users. Special consideration has been given to the resource restraints of smaller Canadian libraries.

While the large libraries have greater capacity to work on initiatives like this, we are all public librarians who are committed to ensuring a strong network of public libraries across all regions of Canada and are committed to equity of access for all Canadians, not just those living in urban regions.

Who is eligible to access the collections of this new organization?

Canadians with print disabilities are eligible to use this service through their public library membership or membership with a First Nations library service. This includes Canadians

  • who are Blind or living with low vision
  • who are living with dyslexia or a learning disability
  • who are living with a physical disability that makes reading difficult.

How big is the collection that users can borrow?

On day one, 177,000 alternative format titles are available to users in a variety of accessible formats. The collection will grow rapidly from there through the investment of member libraries as well as public and private sector funding support.

What formats are available and how can users access them?

Community members have choices in how they want to read:

  • Digital narrated audio
  • Digital text-to-speech
  • Print and/or e-braille

Community members can have materials delivered in three ways:

  • directly to electronic device (download),
  • through their library branch if CD or braille, and
  • mail to their home if CD or braille.

People with print disabilities in a community only have to register with their local public library to be eligible for this service.

More Information:

CULC/CBUC will continue to work on this project and will keep the broader community updated through their website at

Jefferson Gilbert, CAE
CULC/CBUC Executive Director