Supporting Australian book creators

By Ruilin Shi

A behind the scenes look at the Educational Lending Right program

When I was at school, the library was one of my favourite places to visit. It was where I could pick up any book and go on fantastical adventures, or learn about the world beyond that of my home, my school, and my social circle. I had always marvelled at the fact that I could pick up any book in the library and take it home to read. For free.

However, part of me did wonder how the authors made their living if students like me were not buying their books. I occasionally worried over the thought that my favourite authors would stop writing. Then my imagination would take over and I’d picture them hunched over their keyboards wearing fingerless gloves with the heating off in the middle of winter, enduring all the harshness of life — much like the protagonist of a Charles Dickens novel. Another part of me was sure that, since the institution and concept of the library is so pervasive, a system must be in place that ensures authors their dues.

Now many years later, I know what that system is. Since 2000–01, the Australian Government has run the Educational Lending Right (ELR) scheme, to compensate Australian book creators for having their titles held in educational libraries. Each year, a sample of schools is invited to participate in a survey where a count is taken of the copies of titles held in their library. It only takes the schools a matter of minutes to run the reports. Annual payments to authors and publishers are calculated using the results of the schools survey extrapolated to reach a national school score and then combined with scores in the university and TAFE sectors.

As the new project coordinator who ran her first ELR survey at the end of last year, I would like to say a big thank you to all the schools who participated, especially given how busy that time of year is for them. I would also like to encourage those schools to help us spread the word about ELR. The more schools and school staff aware of ELR, the better our chances of having increased school participation for the survey. Let’s all work together so that our Australian book creators can continue creating the books we know and love.

ELR — Encouraging the growth and development of Australian writing and publishing.

Ruilin Shi

Ruilin Shi

ELR project coordinator

Education Services Australia