Stick it to the National Library


Reading room

Campaign against 400,000-pound slaughter intensifies

ReadingRoom supports the protest against determined attempts by the National Library to suppress more than 400,000 books. Well, not physically, because blockades and borders etc. but we are here in spirit when an event organized to protest the library’s decision takes place on Thursday evening, at St Peters in Wellington, to express an increasingly urgent concern that the library has lost its mind in its efforts to get rid of a priceless collection.

A lobby group called Writers Against NZ National Library Disposals is holding a protest at St Peters Church in Willis St tomorrow night at 7pm. Ten readers – including Dame Fiona Kidman, a beacon of common sense and fair play in New Zealand literature – will address a real, live-broadcast audience over their objections to the library’s long-standing attempt to empty an impressive number of books.

ReadingRoom stands alongside this lobby group. The same is true of the New Zealand Society of Authors, and even the Publishers Association of New Zealand, which hardly ever expresses so much as a likeness of opinion. The concern is real and urgent: December 1 is the nominal deadline before the library packs its bags and ships around 400,000 titles to Internet Archive warehouses in Manila.

It sounds like drifting philistinism. It sounds like declining philistinism. It smacks of philistinism that costs a penny … Wellington author Kidman, who will be joining the protest on stage in Wellington, told me in an interview this week:. A plan to relocate the books should have started years ago. I mean, for god’s sake – the Home Office, which oversees the National Library, is more about horse racing, isn’t it. When you look at the things that the ministry covers, the National Library is not a good choice … Someone somewhere is not listening. “

A pressure group called Book Guardians Aotearoa formed last year to protest the removal of books from the library, but it sort of came to naught and it seems no one in the ministry was listening. The lack of any visible progress led to the formation of the rather vibrant Writers Against NZ National Library Disposals, led by Bill Direen, an author known as a genius songwriter. He said: “We are seeking to save the New Zealand International Collection at the National Library, so that the collection (over 400,000 books) can be maintained and properly preserved here in New Zealand. “

But one of the main reasons the library wants to get rid of the books is cost: they claim that $ 100 million is needed to actually store the books. A hundred million! How the hell did they come up with that number? Direen said: “It is not as expensive as it is claimed. Hard to find in Dunedin runs 300,000 pounds on two floors of a building. It has a calm and efficient atmosphere, and if you ask for a book , you have it in your hands in five minutes. “

In essence, he said that the lobby group’s goal was: “We ask that the process already started be slowed down so that the situation can be carefully considered. This will allow for an informed assessment of the entire international collection. . “

Good luck with that. The library seems eager to throw in the books and when you take a look at the inventory you think to yourself: yeah fair enough, actually. Example: Detergents: a glossary of terms used in the detergent industry, by Gerhard Carrière, published in 1960. And: Canada vacations on the Ottawa River, by Rupert Broadfoot, published in 1941. Also: Practical points of penicillin treatment, by George Beaumont, published in 1947… Who needs this stuff? Get rid of it! It’s obsolete, nobody wants it. But then a book like this, on the National Library’s list of discarded books, appears: The Resonance of the Dust: Essays on the Holocaust Literature, by Edward Alexander, published in 1979. The 400,000 books destined to leave New Zealand include countless other valuable books.

“A strong and sustained public outcry is the only option left now”

Karen de Lore of Writers Against NZ National Library Disposals gives a clear idea of ​​what led to Thursday’s protest. She said: “Two years ago the National Library announced a plan to get rid of most of its collection published abroad. These books have been collected for over a hundred years and include rare and first edition books. It will be impossible to replace them. Some of them. He sent 57,000 books to a Rotary book sale in Trentham (most went to a private second-hand dealer)… He contracted with an American company, the Internet Archive, to offer that company the remaining 420,000 books. this contract was kept secret … This company is currently a defendant in a lawsuit brought against it in the United States by four major publishers alleging copyright infringement. Who knows what will happen if she loses the lawsuit.

“Book Guardians Aotearoa has done an excellent job of researching and writing on the matter, disentangling and refuting the PR trick, and trying to get politicians to step in and put an end to this nonsense, all to no avail. The Minister remains adamant… Currently, the National Library’s website says it is packing the books so that they can go into containers to be shipped to Manila where the Internet Archive will digitize them with cheap labor. From there they will go to California. Given the pressures on international shipping, it’s unclear when this will happen. … So this group was formed to try another way to effect the change. A strong and sustained public outcry is the only option left now. “

“One can only assume that the Home Office is dragging this out so that the books can be relocated before all the arguments against their elimination can be taken into account”

A bit of this outcry will be heard in St Peters on Thursday evening. Wellington author Chris Bourke will be among the speakers. He said: “The campaign to stop the elimination of pounds overseas continues and appears to be in a good phase at the moment. The idea of ​​the library donating the books to the Internet Archive in the United States immediately sent alarm bells to those who know the Internet Archive. In addition to being ugly to use for research, it faces constant lawsuits from publishers and authors’ societies, who see the rights to the material they own and have created being trampled on. Authors groups around the world are now alarmed and denounce the fact that their rights are being ignored by a New Zealand government entity, which has signed many international trade agreements.

“The key point remains: the Library did all of this without consulting the researchers, those who use the library.

“The Book Guardians Aotearoa group was created by people from different backgrounds who agree on one main point: books should be kept by the library. The BGA is one of the many organizations – as well as individuals – that have made numerous requests to the OIA to find The OIA’s responses take months to arrive and are heavily written, and one can only assume that the library and the Home Office are dragging this out so that the books can be relocated before any arguments against their disposal can be considered.

“It is a mistake to think that these books are of interest only to academics, or that university libraries are some kind of substitute. attract students, and therefore income – to popular culture, popular fiction, accessible books on religion, history, fine art books … Where are the thousands of books that have gone to the clearance sale from Trentham last November, but have not been sold? The library said at the time that once they left their premises for the Lions, they no longer owned them. It is not our problem. In their briefing to the new minister, they said they may have gone to a used book business. Pontius Pilate speaks. “

Where is the Minister of the Interior, Jan Tinetti, in all this? Nowhere, really; no one has heard of the National Library massacre from her. What is she doing tomorrow night? What better way to do than go to St Peters in Willis St, and hear 10 readers express their frustration and anger at a policy which is an insult to the very principle of a national collection? of books? What are your social projects on Thursday, Minister Tinetti? What are your thoughts? What do you think of the dumping of books that should stay in the civilized democracy where they were first bought? Do you even know what’s going on on your watch? The event runs from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at 211 Willis St.


Comments are closed.