PLR to transfer to British Library

PLR to transfer to British Library

The Public Lending Right (PLR) is to be run by the British Library, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced.

The day-to-day running of the scheme is to stay with the existing PLR operation in Stockton-on-Tees, with staff becoming employees of the British Library from 1st October when the changeover takes place. The current Registrar Jim Parker will lose his title; he will, however, remain in post until March 2015, when he will step down one year early from his five-year contract.

Libraries minister Ed Vaizey said the scheme “had to adapt to take proper account of the difficult economic climate” and that passing control to the British Library would save £750,000 in running costs in real terms over the next 10 years. Authors will not notice a difference in how they apply for or receive money, Vaizey said.

Vaizey said: “PLR is a good and sensible scheme. It helps authors get some return when their work is borrowed from a library rather than purchased outright. But, like so much else, it has to adapt to take proper account of the difficult economic climate at present. So this transfer is designed to help ‘future-proof’ the scheme, and maximise payments to authors by delivering future administration savings.”

He added: “I hope that, by bringing it under the overall control of the British Library, it will also benefit from the opportunities that come from being part of a larger organisation.”

A consultation into the future of the PLR showed overwhelming opposition to changing the independent running of the scheme by the PLR Registrar in Stockton-on-Tees. Critics have included the author Michael Holroyd, who accused the DCMS of using a "devious and misleading" argument in its proposal to transfer the scheme. Peter Straus, president of the Association of Authors Agents, described the original proposal to transfer PLR to the British Library as "totally inappropriate."

Parker told The Bookseller: “We’re delighted that we will be staying on in Stockton carrying out our role. It’s obviously been a stressful couple of years, so we’re glad to know that we will still be here, and authors won’t have to worry about any disruption.

“As of October, we will be employees of the British Library, but will carry on administering the PLR. The savings will come from passing on the admin and finances of a small organisation to the British Library—iit’s economies of scale.

“I will carry on until March 2015 to ensure the handover goes smoothly, when someone else will be appointed. My understanding is that the office will continue here in Stockton.”

The Society of Authors is one of the many bodies and individuals who raised objections to the transfer of PLR. Its deputy general secretary Kate Pool said in response to today’s announcement: "When I looked at the responses that the DCMS received [into their consultation on the future of the PLR body] an astronomically high percentage voted for no change. Since the government has decided it is nevertheless going to make that change, presumably there is a financial saving. If that saving does not impact on the smooth running of PLR for authors, and transfers into the money pot going to authors, that would be fine. We're delighted that the staff at Stockton-on-Tees are all staying on."

PLR has run for 30 years and has made payments of £138m to 50,000 authors. In 2013, PLR will pay £6.4m to more than 23,000 authors, at a rate of 6.2p per library loan.