Authors rally to protest National Library internet archive deal


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The poet Michael O'Leary once said that the books were

Jericho Rock-Archer / Tricks

Poet Michael O’Leary said the books were “beautiful objects of taonga”.

Poets, novelists and writers gathered Thursday evening in central Wellington to try to prevent the shipment of 600,000 books from the National Library abroad.

About 50 people have come to St Peter’s Anglican Church to protest the library’s decision to donate books from its overseas collection to a US-based internet archive.

The library called the deal “historic” and said rarely published books will be read more widely once digitized and available for free online.

But other groups, including some New Zealand and international writers, advocate for the public good. should not be given for free, and copyright must not be infringed.

READ MORE:
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* Writers write anthology on book donation to National Library as divide deepens

Dame Fiona Kidman, Denis Welch, Harry Ricketts, Michael O’Leary, Associate Professor Dolores Janiewski and Simon Sweetman were among those who spoke at the protest.

Many have recited poetry and prose on the importance of books and the literary imagination.

Protest organizer Bill Direen said he wanted to protect all the books in the National Library because they were of enormous value.

He did not want 40 works on Herman Melville, in the library’s international collection, to be lost to the public.

The books could be cared for and stored in New Zealand, he said.

Protest organizer Bill Direen said he wanted all books in the National Library's collection to be protected.

Jericho Rock-Archer / Tricks

Protest organizer Bill Direen said he wanted all books in the National Library’s collection to be protected.

Holding an antique copy of Samuel Johnson Rasselus, O’Leary said the books were “beautiful objects of taonga” which were works of art in themselves.

Janiewski said keeping international books in the National Library gives people crucial access to history and culture.

“Why does the National Library of New Zealand think it serves a withdrawn nation that needs to be protected from outside knowledge?

“Knowledge is not a virus but a source of information and imagination that improves life.”

Award-winning author Dame Fiona Kidman said she was not convinced by the library’s arguments for shipping the books to remote locations.

Dame Fiona Kidman spoke out at St. Peter's Church against shipping 600,000 pounds offshore.

Jericho Rock-Archer / Tricks

Dame Fiona Kidman spoke out at St. Peter’s Church against shipping 600,000 pounds offshore.

“I support this movement and I would like to think that we could change the library’s mind.

The National Library has already said it is running out of space for books. As part of the deal, the books will be physically shipped to America for long-term storage, via a scanning facility in the Philippines.

National librarian Rachel Esson says getting rid of the collection published abroad is good management.

Provided

National librarian Rachel Esson says getting rid of the collection published abroad is good management.

The Authors’ Society, Publishers Association and Copyright Licensing recently wrote to the attorney general and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, asking them to investigate the National Library’s agreement with the archives.

In a statement, National Librarian Rachel Esson said libraries and authors want protection for content creators, as well as the ability for people to access the work that has been created.

“We share the same passion for books as these writers. It’s our life too – we all really want the same.

Pictured are some of the books from the National Library's overseas-published collection, which have been given new home at the US-based Internet Archive.

Provided

Pictured are some of the books from the National Library’s overseas-published collection, which have been given new home at the US-based Internet Archive.

She said the National Library continued to hold a large collection of books published abroad and that the donation was a way to ensure that many of those out-of-print books would be more accessible.

“Previously, only about 0.5% of these books were published each year and digitizing them secures their future and means they will be read by more people.

“Authors have the option of opting out if they do not want their books to be donated. No books by New Zealand authors are included in the donation.

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