This letter appears in the Spring 2015 issue of the Society of Author’s journal: The Author
I have just received my PLR statement and am delighted to see that this year’s payment is greater than last year’s. However, the newsletter accompanying it is worrying, for it explains that the rate per loan has increased because fewer books are being borrowed.
I wonder if this is correct. Are fewer books being borrowed, or is it that fewer books are being borrowed from local authority libraries?
At this moment, my own local authority is consulting the community about ways in which it can cut the library budget. In my home town they either want to cut opening hours by more than 50% or they want to transfer the library to the local school where it would then be run by the Academy School Trust. The local authority are selling this option hard, with the pitch that the library, under the school’s control, would no longer be subject to local authority funding pressures.
If I understand the Public Lending Right 1979 Act correctly, PLR is only payable on books borrowed from local authority libraries, which means as more and more libraries move out of local authority control, fewer libraries, and therefore fewer books, are eligible to be monitored for PLR purposes.
It would seem such a waste of the efforts of all those writers who fought so hard for the implementation of PLR if we were to see it fall by the wayside as more and more libraries are passed out of local authority control. Should we be fighting to stop local authorities handing libraries over to third-sector organisations in the first place? Or do we accept that funding for libraries has to change fundamentally, and therefore begin campaigning for PLR to be extended to this new regime that includes non-local authority libraries?