A thank you to libraries and ELR

What role have libraries played in your life?

I grew up in Zimbabwe, Africa, so libraries didn’t play a huge role in my early life. But at high school I spent a lot of time in the Bulawayo Library (our major city library) which was very well endowed at the time, and full of excellent non-fiction that I devoured for my studies. I loved being surrounded by open books, and losing myself in the silence and the knowledge I was gaining. Making information connections between one book and another was like an exciting journey of discovery. It was uplifting.

How can we promote a love of reading in children?

There are two fundamental ways we can help children love reading. First, by borrowing vast quantities of books from libraries from the time children are babies, and reading at least three marvellous stories to them every day before they start school. It could be the same book three times. Second, we could insist that every primary and high school had a trained librarian who knows students’ individual tastes and can cater for them: who knows books and what is new and cool; who knows how to read aloud; and who knows how to inspire kids to go above and beyond their current level of interest.

What inspired you to go down the path of children’s literature?

I had loved reading from the earliest age and was acknowledged to be a good writer in my high school years. I had a latent ambition to be a writer back then, but I sidestepped that idea and went to drama school for three years instead. I wrote Possum Magic as an assignment in a children’s literature course at Flinders University, as a mature age student. Without that shove, I doubt I would have started. Thank God I had an inspiring lecturer, Felicity Hughes, who encouraged me and believed in me.

What has been your most memorable experience working in children’s literature?

After 34 years, there have been so many exquisite moments that I can’t really choose between them. Recently, however, I read my latest book, I’m Australian too, to a high school class of refugees who were learning English, and was aghast to find myself choked with sobs at the end of it.

Why do you think school libraries are so necessary for today’s children?

It’s not just the libraries themselves, filled though they are with magical books of all kinds, but also the librarians who are so important. Without their expert guidance, help and inspiration, what’s the point, really? I exaggerate, I know, but honestly: long may librarians live and thrive.

On that note, may I thank the Educational Lending Right for the overwhelming support it has shown to me and to all the other Australian authors of books for children. We are deeply, deeply grateful.

Mem Fox
Adelaide, May 2017

Mem Fox

What is the Educational Lending Right?

The Educational Lending Right (ELR) is the modest cornerstone of school libraries; it quietly keeps the literary wheel turning — the one that keeps writers writing, library shelves stocked, and students reading. A cultural initiative of the Australian Government, ELR recompenses book creators for income lost as a result of having their works held in educational libraries. Annual payments to authors are based on the results of the ELR survey.

In Term 4, 750 schools will be invited to participate in the ELR survey. Unlike other surveys, ELR is not based on a series of questions. The ‘survey’ is an automated process within your library management system (LMS) that extracts a count of your library’s book holdings, and can be completed in just a few clicks. The results are collated and used to create an estimate of book holdings in Australia, which then determine payment to book creators.

For statistical validity, ELR requires data from a minimum of 300 schools. For this reason, participation from schools is highly valued; if you’re invited, we encourage you to spare five minutes to run the automated survey within your LMS. These five minutes go a long way in contributing to the strength and longevity of the Australian writing and publishing industry.

In this issue of Connections, Mem Fox joins a long list of authors, including Jackie French, Morris Gleitzman and Isobelle Carmody, in singing the praises of ELR and school libraries in their support of the Australian publishing industry. ‘Long may librarians live and thrive’, Mem writes. Long may Australia’s publishing industry live and thrive, ELR echoes. May our writers keep writing, library shelves remain stocked, and students remain enchanted by the magic of books.

Mem Fox

Mem Fox


Nicole Richardson

Nicole Richardson

Communications & Projects Coordinator, SCIS

Education Services Australia