On February 25 writer and musician Bill Direen appeared on the Otago Arts Hub podcast talking to Tania Robinson and Beris Forde about his latest music and writing, and also about his latest issue of national importance – the National Library throwing out most of its books. Bill is so concerned about this matter that he has designed a poster which will go up around the National Library very soon, and composed a song, which you can listen to on Youtube, and he is donating the payments for downloading it to Book Guardians Aotearoa.

Bill Direen. Photo by Hayley Theyers

You can listen to the full podcast episode here. The discussion about the Overseas Published Collection and why it needs to be saved starts around thirty minutes into the podcast. Here are some key quotes:

‘I think that what they [the National Library] are doing is taking the view of a public library and saying this is what the National Library should be. But in fact this overseas collection is part of an extremely carefully curated number of subjects … which was curated for specialist interests and does not come under the heading of a public library utilitarian interface … It’s not that – it’s a specific research library for people who are trained, who have had the beautiful opportunity to take their studies to a certain level … and if they have this aptitude these books are there for them. It’s not a university library, it is a national library, it belongs to all the people of New Zealand.’

‘Now the National Library has said “Right, anyone who wants us to save a book, just tell us what it is and we’ll do something about it.” Well first of all you have to have Microsoft and access the file and all that technological stuff, but anyway – I don’t have the time to do that. We don’t have the time. Everyone has their own life. It’s their job to preserve these books according to the Act of 2003, the National Library Act. It is they who are preserving these books, for us. It’s not for us to say to them – “I want this book saved.”’

‘Everybody doesn’t have to read all of these books. They have to be there as a reserve, a treasure, for the researchers who are qualified to access them.’

Do listen to the podcast, it’s a very interesting guide to the issues and what is at stake here.

  • by Christine Dann, March 2021

One thought on “Bill Direen on saving the books

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