I have just had a very interesting conversation with the PLR Registrar Jim Parker. He confirmed that Gloucestershire County Council has NOT approached him for clarification over the PLR issues they face but he is happy to discuss this matter with them if they would like to.
Please note : Mr Parker stated that the information he was giving me had been clarified as correct by the DCMS before he spoke to me. Therefore, we would assume that if GCC had sought clarification from DCMS then they would have received the same information.
Gloucestershire County Council has been misinforming us and communities in Gloucestershire. This is serious cause for concern.
What follows is a report of my conversation with Mr Parker.
Gloucestershire County Council made it clear in their library strategy that the community run libraries would fall outside of the statutory provision. Libraries outside of the statutory provision are not covered by PLR. However, when questioned on the PLR issues , Sue Laurence (Head of Libraries) and Jo Grills (the Officer who is responsible for libraries). (Incidentally, County Councilors who have libraries in their portfolio seem to be invisible currently) said,
“We carefully considered the implications of the Public Lending Right when we developed our proposals for community libraries and we are satisfied that our plans are not in breach of this. Community libraries, whilst not part of the core statutory service, are still part of the Gloucestershire library family. This means that they share the same library management system and library membership cards as council-run libraries and all book stock will be on the Gloucestershire Library catalogue. As such, books will be available for loan to people in the county and we consider this to be under the umbrella of the local authority lending scheme” (email to FoGL Chair)
This was repeated by GCC spokespeople to the press
Mr Parker said this was in fact incorrect.
He said that if the authority is not legally responsible for the community libraries then they are not part of the statutory provision, are not covered by the 1964 Public Libraries Act and will not be covered by PLR. PLR is part of the copyright act and allows book lending by public authorities. Mr Parker confirmed that regardless of the “family” label Ms Grills and Ms Laurence have decided to give the community libraries, and regardless of the fact that they have access to the library management system, the community libraries fall outside the PLR umbrella.
In fact, and this is of some concern, Mr Parker told me that they would have to “disentangle” the community library issue statistics from the county statistics, which will be a logistical problem. He also said that this situation can only change if the government changes the PLR licence conditions and the Public Libraries Act 1964.
So, this is entirely contradictory to what GCC have told us and the communities. It would seem that GCC are being loose cannons and are making it up as they go along.
We are very open about the source of our clarification – the PLR and DCMS who are responsible for PLR administration. GCC are refusing to tell us or give us sight of the source of their information.
Prescribed Library – a ray of hope for communities?
Mr Parker said that if the community libraries are not what are called “prescribed libraries” then they will need permission from authors to lend their books. When I asked him what prescribed libraries are he said it is unclear but in theory any library set up “for the public good” such as the British Library and education establishments. When asked if this applies to our community libraries he said he did not know the answer and that clarification from the government is also needed on this issue.
GCC have provided misinformation and have misled us. GCC appear to have not done their research.
Ms Grills told us, in response to our request to see sight of the advice they had received,
“Sue Laurence has made Gloucestershire’s position in relation to the PLR scheme clear, and if you have further queries on the operation of the scheme these should be addressed to the UK PLR Registrar or to the DCMS”
I would argue that it would be wise for her to take her own advice, especially given the fact that it is her and Ms Laurence’s job, not ours, to ensure they are acting lawfully and giving out the right information. Once again we find ourselves doing the job of Ed Vaizey and the DCMS in having to superintend GCC!
If only GCC had kept the community libraries as part of the statutory provision as we begged.
Mr Parker said that DCMS are aware of the PLR issues and are looking into it but this is a new situation and in order to change it legislation will need changing.
Until these issues have been resolved GCC should not be pushing ahead with these plans, should retract their inaccurate statements, and should ensure that communities are given the correct information. We ask again, what else have they overlooked?
We have been told that the legal handover of these libraries will be happening in November 2012.
Today we received an update from the PLR Registrar telling us that according to the DCMS the “community libraries” may be treated as “prescribed” libraries, as mentioned in the post above. He did not share any details of the practicalities with us so we have asked him to answer the following important questions;
- how are authors recompensed for the lending done by these libraries. Will DCMS be paying PLR now for private libraries?
- If authors are NOT recompensed by prescribed libraries, how will this impact on the income of authors as this model of library becomes more widespread? also, why should public bodies pay if private libraries do not have to?
- How would PLR in Gloucestershire be administered? The loaning of the community libraries here will be tangled up with the loaning statistics of the public libraries as they use the same system. Would they need “disentangling” as was said during our last communication?
- do the libraries have to register as ‘prescribed libraries’?
The above questions are really those that Gloucestershire County Council should be asking but, given the fact they have not sought guidance from the DCMS or the Public Lending Rights Registrar on this matter, and given the fact that DCMS seem to have no intention of making sure authorities are properly informed, we are once again taking it upon ourselves.