03 May 2022
Behind the Scenes at the British Library: Janis Black and Ged Prior from the Public Lending Right team
This month we meet Janis Black and Ged Prior from the Public Lending Right (PLR) team, who are based in Boston Spa.
First things first: what is Public Lending Right?
In short, it means authors, illustrators, narrators and other book contributors get paid when someone borrows their work from a public library.
‘PLR legally entitles authors and other rights holders to receive payments from a central fund based on the lending of their books, audiobooks and eBooks from public libraries in the UK,’ explains Ged. This is funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and administrated by the British Library: authors and other contributors register their books, and this information – along with borrowing figures collected from libraries – is used to calculate the payments they’re due to receive each year, up to a total of £6,600.
‘It is always satisfying when statements are sent out and there are a flurry of tweets from those who have received a payment, however small. It is very often not about the money, but the fact that their titles are being borrowed,’ says Janis.
Ged agrees: ‘It’s great to know your work is contributing to something so positive: ensuring authors and contributors whose books are being enjoyed in libraries around the UK for free will get something back, whether that’s a modest financial reward or just the satisfaction of knowing that their work is being enjoyed by library users.’
You can find out more about how PLR works on the British Library website. If you’re a contributor to a book and haven’t registered for PLR yet, move quickly – 30 June is the final date for titles to be included in the 2021-22 year.
What are your roles?
Janis is PLR’s Operations and Marketing Manager. ‘I oversee the team who help people register their titles, check they’re eligible, and make sure everything runs smoothly so everyone gets the right payments at the end of the year.’ Janis also approves each year’s library sample. PLR figures are based on loans data collected from at least 30 regional library authorities (around 1,000 individual branches) and at least seven of these change every year to make sure different regions are represented fairly.
‘I’m also responsible for keeping the website up to date and working with the Library’s marketing team to promote PLR. We produce an annual ‘most borrowed’ list which is always of interest to contributors and the wider public.’ James Patterson has dominated recent years.
Ged is a Business Analyst (BA) in the PLR team. He’s been working with the team, along with the Library’s Technology department and an external developer, to help design, build, launch and maintain a brand new online system for processing PLR registrations and payments. ‘The role of a BA can vary massively. During an average day, I might find myself acting as a translator, organiser, facilitator, data wrangler, researcher, problem-solver, process-mapper, tester, or any combination of the above.’
How did you get the job?
Ged started in local government as part of a graduate trainee scheme and worked in a number of teams before moving to the Policy team, with a focus on service performance and improvement projects. ‘Since joining the Library I’ve had the opportunity to gain experience in a more technical role while honing my skills with more formal training and qualifications.’
Janis has held various roles at the Library and joined the PLR team in 2018. ‘I have always been interested in reading so to have a job where I work with those who create the books is my ideal role.’
What do you love about the Library?
Janis feels a real sense of pride when she’s asked where she works and can talk about all the different things that happen at the Library: ‘Very often people are surprised that it is not just a larger version of their local library.’
Ged loves working with colleagues ‘who are genuine experts, trusted and relied upon as leaders in their fields and that everybody still finds time to share their knowledge and expertise with others.’
What’s your favourite object in our collection?
Janis finds it impossible to choose a favourite, but really likes the Library’s exhibitions. ‘My favourite one has to be Marvellous and Mischievous which highlighted young rebels in children’s books. I was able to see the handwritten drafts of Matilda by Roald Dahl, one of my favourite childhood authors. His titles never lose their charm and are still popular today, rating highly in our most borrowed lists.’
Ged has taken this question as a useful prompt to explore some of the highlights and learning materials available online at bl.uk: ‘Exploring the project on British accents and dialects has been a fascinating rabbit hole to be led down.’
Any book recommendations for our readers?
Janis suggests The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. ‘This is the first book of his that I have read and it was filled with humour and demonstrated the power of books. I will definitely be trying some more of his titles.’
Ged selects a heady mix of 18th-century French travelogue pastiche and football. ‘My recommendation is Journey Around My Room: having been arrested after a duel in the Spring of 1790, Xavier de Maistre answers the question ‘What do you do when you find yourself imprisoned in your room for six weeks?’ I’ve also enjoyed reliving Leeds United’s promotion to the premier league via Phil Hay’s And It Was Beautiful.’