Here is the text of the press release we issued last week after the disappointing meeting with the Minister.
The Books’ Case – On March 24 at a meeting at the Beehive about the disposal by the National Library of New Zealand’s overseas book collection, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon Jan Tinetti, encouraged the Library to engage in dialogue with the group opposing the move, Ngā Kaitiaki o ngā Pukapuka/Book Guardians Aotearoa (BGA). However, after listening to representatives from BGA she said she considers the disposal “an operational matter”, and she is taking the advice of her operational staff.
BGA representative Chris Bourke, who spoke to the briefing paper prepared by BGA for the Minister, said “We went to make the case to the Minister that her New Zealand First predecessor’s decision to allow the disposal of over 600,000 books published overseas (which form the bulk of the National Library’s collection) was ill-advised and wrong in principle and practice, and that the current Minister and her department need to revisit it with a view to rescinding it.”
The reasons given for rescinding the decision were:
Disposal of an entire collection is not consistent with the spirit or the letter of the National Library Act 2003;
The current and potential users of the books were not consulted by the National Library or the Department of Internal Affairs before the decision was made;
No better alternatives to complete disposal were ever considered.
Also at the meeting was Rachel Esson, National Librarian since December last year, and the official overseeing the book disposal for over a year. She said that the first foray into disposing of the books, outside of the public library system – more than 50,000 from the 000-300 subject range went into a charity sale last November – was not a success from the Library’s point of view.
They are now considering other options. When asked about these options, and what happened to the approximately 25,000 books that were not sold, or included, in the sale, no response was forthcoming.
BGA is concerned that, outside of the few books taken up by public libraries – where they would continue to be accessible to the public, as required by the Act – most are destined for a fate described by the Library as “secure destruction”. (Editors Note this follow The University of Auckland insisting in 2018 it will not burn books if proposed library closures go ahead – but it “may shred them“).
BGA looks forward to direct dialogue with the Library, as encouraged by the Minister. We urge the Library to consult independent subject experts about which book should be kept. While dialogue continues, we expect that – in good faith – the book disposal will go on hold.