Supporting Australian book creators

By Nicole Richardson, Simmone Howell

A behind the scenes look at the Educational Lending Right program including comments from authors.

We often celebrate libraries for providing free access to information, but rarely think about what this means for the authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers responsible for the books currently sitting on library shelves.

If we are interested in reading a particular book, whether for leisure or for information needs, we are able to head to the library to see if it is available. For every book accessed via educational and public libraries rather than a bookshop, the chances of book creators and publishers receiving well-deserved income are lowered.

Every year, the Department of Communications and the Arts administers the Educational Lending Right (ELR) survey, an initiative of the Australian Government to make payments to eligible creators and publishers on the basis that income is lost from the availability of their books in public and educational lending libraries.

The Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), on behalf of the department, asks 600 schools across the country each year to retrieve a book count of particular titles that are held in school libraries. A minimum of 300 schools are needed to participate in the survey. The data collected is then used to generate payment for eligible book creators and publishers, encouraging the growth and development of Australia’s writing and publishing industry.

As we wrap up the end of ELR for another year, it is encouraging to see so many schools participate in this survey and recognise the great benefit it provides to the wider industry. Schools selected have helped us to collect the data by running a quick survey in their library management system to gather their book counts, or by running a backup of their library management system so that the relevant data can be extracted.

We are very grateful for the contribution of over 330 schools in this year’s survey, plus the kind support of several library vendors, education departments and Catholic Education Offices. We encourage schools invited to participate in future ELR surveys to get involved and to help support the writing and publishing industry.

So often we celebrate the role of the library in providing free access to information; the Educational Lending Right allows us to also celebrate the role of the great minds behind each book.

What a great way to say ‘thank you – your books are making a difference’.

A message from Simmone Howell

At a very basic level, an ELR payment always feels like a surprise gift – I never know exactly when it will come or how much it will be, but I’m always grateful for it. Writing is such a financially unstable profession, so every little bit helps. Often an ELR payment is the difference between paying an electricity bill and twitching in darkness – and I'm not being metaphorical. On a wider cultural level it gives me an indication that my books are being read; books that are no longer ‘fresh’ are still borrowable, and that in itself is an even greater gift. It is so rewarding to visit a school, see your books in the library, and know that even if students aren't rolling in pocket money, they can still access your work. The ELR initiative is vital to sustaining Australian literature and culture.

Simmone Howell
Nicole Richardson

Nicole Richardson

SCIS Communications & Projects Coordinator

Education Services Australia

Simmone Howell

Simmone Howell