We have received a copy of this briefing via an Official Information Act inquiry, and we are publishing it here for all to read. The briefing is from the National Library to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Jan Tinetti, on the library’s plans to send all the overseas books to the Philippines for digitising.

“Ahead of our planned operational announcement, for which we have a communications plan and material prepared, we have the below inquiry from Andre Chumko, having received a media release (wildly inaccurate) from Book Guardians Aotearoa.” wrote the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) Communications Manager to five fellow DIA employees on 8 July 2021. (Two civil servants in the Minister of Internal Affairs office, and three of the DIA’s media team.)

You can read the rest of the comms manager’s email, and all her others relating to spinning the National Library’s deal with the Internet Archive, in the documents below. It is on page 28 of the latest document dump received by BGA in response to our OIA request asking for the communication around the deal the National Library cut with the Internet Archive.

This deal was announced with a media release embargoed till 5 am on July 13 (see p. 27 of the briefing documents). By that time the DIA spin doctors and their enablers* had succeeded in getting coverage on TVNZ, RNZ and in Stuff. From the DIA’s perspective this all went really well. The Comms Manager advised eleven other DIA staff on 12 July that there was an “Excellent story about our DIA partnership with the Internet Archive from DomPost reporter Andre Chumko published in Stuff today” which led with “positive reporting” of the DIA’s position and “limited reporting” of criticisms from BGA and the New Zealand Society of Authors.

On July 13 the eleven other DIA staff were told that there was “further excellent coverage” on RNZ’s The Panel with Wallace Chapman, and a “positive headline and angle” on TVNZ.

Subsequent emails from the Comms Manager included four pages of ‘Questions and Answers For internal use only. Not for distribution’ (pp 8-11 of the briefing documents). These are patsy questions with patsy answers, and in BGA’s view most of them are wildly inaccurate (to coin a phrase). Our next post will include an analysis of what is wrong with them, and why.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to read them for yourself, along with the rest of the documents. If you happen to be teaching journalism students, you will find it useful illustrative material for a class in how the PR professionals do their deceptive work.

 * Count them in the email addresses in the documents – BGA got up to sixteen (16!) all taking the taxpayer’s dollar to do this form of work.

Here it is for you to read below:

We are also posting a copy of the legal suit as filed in the US District Court for the District of New York on 1 June 2020.

You will see in the above document that the Library incorrectly told the Minister that the legal suit only relates to the Emergency Library, and that this has been taken down. This is completely incorrect and appears to be based on some inaccurate media reporting rather than on proper legal advice.

We are publishing the text of the law suit here so that you can read it for yourselves:

3 thoughts on “Briefing to the Minister on the Internet Archive digitisation: How many government spin doctors does it take to kill a national taonga?

  1. The silver lining is that they are finally admitting that the books have value. Legally speaking could that have ramifications? It’s of interest that they are protected objects under the 1975 Act. But the way the NLNZ is making this into a culture war is disgusting. And they keep repeating the lie that the books haven’t been used for 20 years. I also note that when they digitise NZ newspapers they are also digitising the overseas news in them, which is inconsistent with their approach to printed books.


    1. Thanks Violet, yes, all good points. you are right, turning it into a culture war is really disappointing, one of so many disappointing aspects to this.


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