This week, for the Public Libraries class, we were given an introduction to Public Lending Right, by Jim Parker.
I had no idea what PLR was until this week, so it was a fantastic insight into something that’s not necessarily library-related, but very interesting and I’m glad I now know about.
Public Lending Right comes under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and is the right for authors, and other contributors to books such as illustrators, to receive payment from the Government for use of their works in libraries. Basically, authors receive a sum for each library loan, data for which PLR collects from library authorities.
Around 40 countries have some kind of PLR set up, and it became an EU Directive in 1992. This means that all EU countries muct have a PLR system, and those countries that wish to join the EU must either set one up or have it set up. PLR in the UK has been around since 1979, after authors campaigned for the right to payment, though it was Denmark who were the first, setting theirs up in 1946.
Jim gave us some statistics, which highlight the fact that libraries are making a wide range of books available, and that the public are borrowing a range of books. There are 40,000 authors registered, 24,000 of which receive payment, and 211 of whom receive the maximum payment amount. The rate per loan is 6.05 pence, which is down from 6.25 pence last year.
Through the collection of library loans data, PLR also collect a lot of information about what it is people are reading. For example, most borrowed authors, most borrowed titles, and loans by category.
After the presentation, we had an opportunity to ask questions. Someone raised the issue of ghost writers, and whether they receive any payments. It’s tricky because their name isn’t on the title page, and the ‘author’ has to vote them in. For example, Michael Cain did, and they went 50/50, which is lovely.
We were also asked to keep an eye on the PLR website this month, as a public consultation will be taking place regarding the location of the PLR. The service will continue, but the current office is being abolished, and it looks likely to move to the British Library if not voted for no change.
I really enjoyed this class, as it was something a little bit different. It’s always great to hear from other complementary services and professions, and presentations like this open my eyes to the social and political context in which libraries are situated. Plus, authors have to register for PLR, so the more people who know about it, the better!