Writers write anthology on book donation to National Library as divide deepens



Fifty-two authors – including decorated literary figures Dame Fiona Kidman, CK Stead, and David Eggleton – have produced an anthology on the National Library’s plan to donate 600,000 books to a US-based Internet archive.

The ultimate reader of love for the book was edited by writer William Direen and includes reflections from eminent journalists, poet laureates and Prime Minister’s Award winners. At least 1,000 copies of the printed anthology will be distributed freely to hundreds of cafes around Aotearoa later this year.

“If the writers wanted to express their anger and regret at the theft of our international collections in Wellington, they were given the green light,” said Direen.

“[This] could be a legitimate form of protest. After seeing what they do to our international collections, I no longer trust the National Library as the repository responsible for the legal deposit of New Zealand literature.

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.


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.

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Other contributors include Brian Turner, Cilla McQueen, Landing editor Lynley Edmeades, Associate Professor Peter Simpson, David Kārena-Holmes and Carolyn McCurdie of Octagon Poetry Collective.

The anthology includes “poems of indignation, research essays and political cries,” which were compiled in response to ongoing activity at the National Library.

Earlier this month, the library announced that it would donate approximately 600,000 of the books it plans to remove from its overseas collection to the Internet Archive, a digital library with a stated mission to universal access to all knowledge. It will make digital copies of the works available for free online.

The move will free up space for the National Library to store more New Zealand and Pasifika works.

Dame Fiona Kidman contributed to the anthology.


Dame Fiona Kidman contributed to the anthology.

The controversial plan has become even more complicated as the Internet Archive becomes embroiled in an international lawsuit involving international publishing heavyweights HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Hachette Book Group, who allege it is engaged in a “violation of voluntary mass of copyright “.

Among the most vocal critics are the independent group Book Guardians Aotearoa, the Publishers‘ Association and the Society of Authors, many of whom say they are underpaid. But there was also a wave of support for the donation from the Aotearoa library sector.

“The elimination of the National Library’s international collection has been overdue for a decade or more,” said Hilary Beaton, executive director of New Zealand Public Libraries.

“The National Library’s decision to recognize our nation’s contribution to global culture by putting New Zealand and the Pacific stories first is something we can be proud of. It signals to the international community that we have a literary culture and a voice that is unique to this region, one that has for so long been under-recognized. “

With the introduction of New Zealand history into school curricula, public libraries saw a “significant growth” in demand for works by Kiwi authors and Maori te reo publications, especially in children’s collections. , said Beaton.

Erika Rankin, president of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa, said none of its members had expressed concern about decisions made by the National Library.

CONZUL, the New Zealand Council of University Librarians, is also supporting this initiative.

“Authors and publishers play an important role in the creation, production and dissemination of knowledge and creative works, and their concern for their livelihoods is understandable,” said Anne Scott, President of CONZUL.

“However, this must be weighed against the good of society, where access to knowledge is equitable, affordable and timely.”

National Librarian Rachel Esson said the library supports authors and publishers by purchasing their books and paying for them through the public lending right.

In 2020, 1,180 authors shared the annual fund of $ 2.4 million, with an average payout of $ 2,033.

National librarian Rachel Esson says the library supports authors and publishers by purchasing their work.


National librarian Rachel Esson says the library supports authors and publishers by purchasing their work.

“We would like to see the Aotearoa book community working together to support the New Zealand publishing ecosystem,” said Esson.

“We share the same passion for books as these 52 anthology authors. It’s also our life – we all really want the same.

But Jenny Nagle, managing director of the Authors’ Society, said the library had not consulted it before making its decision, and it appeared that no one in the library or the Ministry of Culture and Heritage did had investigated the legal status of the donation before accepting it. .

Catriona Ferguson, associate director of the Publishers Association, said a meeting between the library, her and the Authors’ Society is scheduled for next month.

In addition to being distributed in print, the anthology will be available online and downloadable via a QR code.



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