The Society of Authors has called on the government to ringfence and increase the "already meagre" Public Lending Right fund. It comes after the Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society also urged a raise to the library loans rate.
Sheila Bennett, head of libraries strategy and delivery at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has written to the SoA to pass on the recommendation that PLR is increased from 9.03p to 9.55p. The increase reflects a reduction in the estimated number of loans of books that are registered for PLR.
The PLR rate per loan is calculated on the basis of the size of the fund available, and an estimate by the British Library of the total number of loans of their registered works, obtained by gauging a sample of public libraries in the UK.
In a her reply, SoA c.e.o Nicola Solomon accepted the recommendation, but also pressed DCMS to "ringfence and increase the already meagre PLR fund in the upcoming spending review", adding that the UK's funding is "well below that of comparable EU countries".
"At £6m net of administration costs, it compares badly with the £14m annually in Germany — £11.2m on a population-adjusted basis at current exchange rates," she added.
Solomon also said: "We are sad to note the further decrease in the estimated loans of books registered for PLR, caused, no doubt, by the continuing cuts in library services and the exclusion of some volunteer-run libraries from the scheme. We urge the government to include volunteer-run libraries within the PLR scheme so that true figures for library lending can be recorded and remunerated.
"We urge the government to fulfil its obligation to provide a 'comprehensive and efficient' library service and to protect and maintain the library service which is under serious threat. We would particularly urge DCMS to argue strongly for improvement to funding for public libraries in its discussions with MHCLG [Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government] in light of the government’s imminent White Paper on local government reorganisation. Libraries are especially important at this time with schools and learning under so much pressure owing to coronavirus and that importance is likely to increase."
Earlier this year the government acknowledged the industry pressure to scrap the e-book tax and has agreed to extend PLR to e-books and audiobooks included in the Digital Economy Bill. Solomon said: "We are delighted that the government included in the Digital Economy Bill a clear and narrowly defined statutory solution agreed by all stakeholders extending PLR to e-books and audiobooks. While the first payments will be made to authors this year we note that no extra funds have been allocated either for payments to authors or for the work of the British Library in implementing the new payments and we urge this to be included in the spending review. This is particularly important in view of libraries’ increased investment in e-books and remote lending during the pandemic."
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