A Moral Minefield for Authors

Can you support the idea of volunteer libraries without devaluing public libraries? The issue in this article in The Guardian is that new volunteer libraries in the UK won’t be signed up for PLR. For anybody who doesn’t know, PLR (Public Lending Right) means an author gets a few pence/cents every time their book is borrowed in a library in the UK or Ireland.

But there’s a bigger issue for me.

Most writers would understand and support the desire to create a community-built library where no library exists. But in doing so, you could be letting the government off the hook when they close public libraries (if the people really want them, well . . . they’ll just make their own, won’t they? Sure, that’ll be a good enough substitute).

Libraries closing down has not become a big issue in Ireland yet, but it’s definitely on the horizon. As numbers of staff decrease, smaller ones will start closing by default, even if nobody actively chooses to shut them down, simply because there’ll be nobody to run them.

You also devalue librarians as a profession if you imply that any old volunteer can just step into the job. Being a librarian is a complex job that involves a hell of a lot more than shelving and stamping books. That’s why they go to college to learn how to do it. It’s why it’s called a profession.
I admire anyone who has the nerve and gumption to start up a volunteer library where none exists, but they are not a substitute for a good public library, whether they pay PLR or not.