20 JANUARY 1961, Page 15


I is clearly a waste of effort to bandy words about washing-machines with the learned mouthpiece

of the librarians: for he does not seem to read them. May I stick to a few facts about the book-producer and the Public Library, which, both as an anther and a ratepayer, I regard as a Public Racket?

I. 'Small buying, enormous borrowing.' In 1959 the Public Libraries in the United Kingdom spent E4.550,000 on the purchase of books—say. at an aver- age price of 15s., and with a discount of 10 per cent. (God knows why), 6,740,000 volumes. The rest of the home market, including the schools, spent t37.500,000--say, 49,000,000 volumes. But the Public Libraries 'issued' on loan 397,000,000 volumes, of which 300,000,000 or more were copyright. Between 1955 and 1958 the 'issues' increased by an average of 15.000,000 a year. Are the owners of copyright really expected to regard such a traffic with benevo- lent indifference?

2. On January 7 (FA Cup, etc.) only 867,604 citi- zens attended the soccer matches, and paid from 2s. 6d. upwards. On every working-day in the year more than a million take books out of the Public Libraries which they can keep for a fortnight and Pass on to many others. The borrowers, rich or poor, are only 28 per cent. of the population : they borrow 411 average of thirty books a year. They pay nothing over the counter, and, through the rates, they pay less than a penny for every book they borrow. , 3. I have seven London Public Library Reports before me. Expenditure on the purchase of books

averages 17.94 per cent. of the total expenditure. Salaries and wages (librarians and staff) take 54.11 per cent. The figures for Hampstead are 'Books- 14.9 per cent. Salaries and wages, 52.4 per cent.' I do not suggest that the librarians should get less— far from it—but that Public Library finance is evidently crazy.

4. The librarians agree: they want more money for books. The Councillors say : 'Can't raise the rates.' If it is for us, why not? We are the producers. But a charge to the borrower (except the old age pensioner) at the rate of 2d. a loan on 400,000,000 'issues' would yield £3,300,000. We are asking about £l,250,000--spread over 536 local authorities. The rest could be used to buy more books, and pay the librarians more, without charging the rates. Why not?

5. Mr. Barry says: 'The libraries and the publishers flourish side by side.' Not in the same field. Home buying is not, like home borrowing, bounding. For some years the home sales of ordinary books—the kind of books that go to the Public Library—have, in comparison to public lending figures, been weak- ening. Now, I am assured by the Publishers' Associa- tion, they are positively on the decline. (Export and education are not in this picture.)

6. The prime fact is this. Not suddenly, but after ten years' complaint, the producers have proposed a practical remedy, and demand attention. Performing Right was new too when it began, untidily, in 1842; and new again in 1911 when Parliament made it a part of copyright. Exactly the same arguments were used against that: 'Why, if I buy The Mikado "out- right" can't 1 perform it without "a further pay- ment"? You don't know when you're lucky. This will be the worse for you' and so on—all the Barry stuff. Some complain about our going to Parliament. In theory, at least, we could establish the claim which Mr. Barry finds so hard to understand without going to Parliament at all. Each publisher could refuse to supply the Public Libraries except upon certain terms. But we preferred to make an orderly approach, ask- ing the sanction of Parliament (which created the Public Libraries), and submitting ourselves to a com- mittee appointed by the Minister of Education. So far, we have not had much reward.

7. Some say : `Ah. yes, the dear authors—but not those publishers!' Composers, authors and pub- lishers have always been partners in Performing Right. And when Mr. Brophy began this battle in 1951, not mentioning the publishers, how much sup- port did he get from the librarians? None.

8. We still hope, in spite of all affronts, to get round a table, in a friendly way, with librarians and councillors, too. But Mr. Barry is not making many friends among us.—Yours faithfully,


12 Hammersmith Terrace. W6 *