Book Guardians oppose National Library’s plan to get rid of overseas books

Ngā Kaitiaki o ngā Pukapuka/Book Guardians Aotearoa has been formed this month, in response to the National Library beginning to dispose of its precious and priceless Overseas Published Collection of over 600,000 books.

BGA has been advised by former Prime Minister Helen Clark that at no time was it intended that the National Library would or should collect and preserve only New Zealand published materials, and that her government passed the National Library Act in 2003 in order to end the indiscriminate culling of books which occurred in the 1990s.

Former Attorney General Chris Finlayson Q.C. is horrified at this further attack on the national collection, and with BGA Executive Member Dolores Janiewski is seeking an urgent meeting with the National Librarian and the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs to discuss the inadvisability and possible illegality of the current cull, and to advise a halt to any further disposal until the new government and incoming ministers have been properly briefed.

Jim Traue, a former Turnbull Librarian, also supports the BGA’s kaupapa. He made the role of the National Library quite clear in his op ed:

“The National Library, as our one library of last resort, has a responsibility to ensure that no book, once deemed worthwhile by being selected for a library’s collection, will ever disappear from the nation’s bookstock.”

“ We met by Zoom and raised a glass to the memory of the great book collectors and protectors of Aotearoa New Zealand, from Alexander Turnbull to the first National Librarian, Geoffrey Alley, and his successor, Graeme Bagnall”, said BGA Executive Member Christine Dann, describing the launch of Book Guardians Aotearoa.

“ We also vowed to honour their memory by doing our best to ensure that the books they collected and protected in the past are cherished and accessible to all New Zealanders in the present and future.”

“We are also receiving advice from other librarians, historians, writers, researchers, academics and former politicians and civil servants who know why it is wrong to dispose of most of the National Library’s books, and are keen to see it stopped immediately”, said Dr Dann. “Helen Clark thinks this should be an election issue, and we agree with her.”

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