A controversial story hit my newsfeed this weekend: it seems the Toronto Public Library has launched a new program aimed at reducing wait times for popular best-sellers: they are plumping up the catalogue by buying used copies from library patrons.
As the Toronto Star explains:
The books it has listed on its “Sell Books to the Library” website page are not books that the public does not want; their authors are not ones who, the great lie of media and festivals, stand to benefit from extra publicity. No, the list is comprised of books so popular that the library is having a hard time meeting existing demand. December’s inaugural list includes, for instance, Canadian authors Margaret Atwood, David Bezmozgis, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Kathleen Reichs, Peter Robinson, Carrie Snyder, Miriam Toews, as well as Sean Michaels and Thomas King, winners of this year’s Scotiabank Giller and Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction respectively.
There is some histrionic rhetoric I am ignoring in the Star’s write-up, but their point is a good one. There is a difference between an individual customer engaging in a little comparison-shop in search of the lowest price, and in a public institution supported by taxpayer dollars doing it. The library has long served an important function in supporting the literary community. It has never been about penny-pinching the bottom line.
Now here’s the question, and I wasn’t able to find the answer. In Canada, our libraries pay a royalty to authors when their books are borrowed. Do the books purchased under this program generate royalties? The page on the Toronto Library site doesn’t say, nor do they say in the press release announcing the program. Do any readers know the answer? It would make a difference in how I view the program.