No Disposals


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27 August, 2021
Phantom National Poetry Day

Due to Covid 19 all public activities opposing the disposal of 650,000 books from National LIbrary of New Zealand have been postponed. This includes the free distribution of the anthology The Ultimate Reader of Love for the Book.

While we await Covid developments, why not write to the Minister in charge of the National Library, to remind her of various simple aspects of NZ common law these threatened disposals contravene?

a) section 21 of the Human Rights Act of 1993 outlaws discrimination;

the deletion of all overseas published volumes is an act of discrimination against the various heritages of all New Zealanders;

b) Article 4 of the Treaty of Waitangi (verbal "toleration" understanding) concerns the right to freedom of religion and belief (wairuatanga);

deletion of books removes a reservoir of books on the subjects of religion, shared and historical beliefs, experience and culture, from access by "in situ” researchers;

c) Section 13 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 defines the rights and fundamental freedoms of anyone subject to New Zealand law as "The right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, degrading, or disproportionately severe treatment”;

the deletion of 650,000 books of universal research is disproportionate and degrading.

< Jan.Tinetti@parliament.govt.nz>

W. Direen


1st August, 2021

The National Library of New Zealand, urged on by bosses in government departments, is continuing to gut our library. In trying to justify themselves, they have accused the books themselves of colonialism, racism, gender prejudice and of just about everything. Each accusation has been shown for what it is by members of Book Guardians Aotearoa.

The latest strategy is a deal with a firm that has been courting the National Library for more than ten years. It is the so-called digital “solution”: we unconditionally give them all the real books, and they digitise as many as they want to, making some of them available on the internet.

We are all using digital media. During Covid lockdowns, digital media are our friends. But this is an abuse of that friendship. The scale of the loss proposed by the digital “solution” is horrific—600,000 books will leave New Zealand’s shores forever. We must be circumspect. Some of you will remember how we threw away vinyl recordings without realising how special it is to listen to a real record. Books, also, are the real thing.

Throwing away the books in a swap for digitisation is likely to be foolhardy and premature. Scientific research is underway, comparing the experiences of reading ‘digital’ vs ‘printed’ media. For now, we should hold on to both formats.

There are other causes for concern: digitised works may be open to manipulation, unintentional or intentional control or censorship; private providers of virtual ‘libraries’ might go broke or merge with corrupt companies; and what if electricity becomes too expensive for everybody? The world can change suddenly, tragically. The New Zealand Society of Authors has shown (https://authors.org.nz) how this deal deprives writers of royalties and impinges on copyright. Keeping our hard copy books for a few more decades is a matter of good sense.

Most librarians I know love the physical book as much as the writers in this anthology do. The workers on the ground are appalled at what is happening. At no stage have the bosses admitted the true cause — insufficient funding.

The National Library has been so starved of money for the correct storage and care of its physical books it has agreed to gut itself. Economic pressure, pressure for promotion, concerns for livelihood, job esteem, hierarchy of bureaucracy have created a climate of fear for jobs, and weird ethics at the top.

New Zealand is a wealthy, developed country with a diverse, educated population. We have companies like Phantom Billstickers who work overtime bringing poetry and the Arts to the people. They do that from commitment. Our government should also have a commitment, to conserve knowledge, not destroy or endanger it.

It is simply not necessary to immediately swap all these books in a bad deal. Think about it — digital conversions do not materially exist! Digital conversions will not guarantee the security of the real books for everyone, and the physical books will be lost to us Kiwis. We’ll never see them again. Digitisation might be welcomed if copyright is not breached, but only if the books remain in New Zealand, so workers at the National Library can care for them and make them accessible to us.

But that is not part of this latest plan. The bosses are hoping to act swiftly, so the books will not even be in the country, they will not even exist within our borders, by the time thoughtful people have rallied from their difficult economic and domestic situations, and united.

Go ahead and voice your opposition. Write to the Minister Jan Tinetti, tell your local M.P. we should hold on to our books. Go to readings by the writers, buy their books, follow the Phantom Poetry Posters. Little by little good sense will win out. Future generations will thank you.

< Jan.Tinetti@parliament.govt.nz>

W. Direen


9th July, 2021

Mass Book Disposals are being carried out by the National Library of New Zealand/Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa (the wellsprings of knowledge).

If allowed to continue, a fine research library will be gutted. This will deprive New Zealanders of a research portal to their roots. Scholars will have no access to published studies about the rest of the world. Future decision-makers will be denied studies about international reforms, social progress, historical understandings, the heritage of literature, philosophy, linguistics, communications researches and political diagnosis.

640,000 books have been earmarked for disposal. Every week thousands of books are vanishing, stolen from the people of New Zealand. It defies all reason. It defies comprehension. It isn’t as though our country has no space for these books – there are buildings where they might be stored, and which might be called on; other research libraries do this all the time.

The writers in this anthology feel strongly that these disposals must immediately cease. Since the minister in charge is now the only person who can lawfully and openly stop them, please voice your concern by writing to her.

A prepared form should appear if you click on the following link:

< Jan.Tinetti@parliament.govt.nz>

W. Direen