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Benefactor Remove Major Turnbull Collection

Benefactor Prepares to Remove Major Collection from the Turnbull Library

A major benefactor of the Alexander Turnbull Library is preparing to remove materials currently on loan to the Turnbull and to withdraw future substantial bequests, such are his concerns about the National Library restructuring, says the Turnbull Library’s advocacy group, The Friends of the Turnbull Library.

The Lilburn collection, a vital part of the Turnbull Library’s extensive music collection, entails the scores, sketches, sound recordings and correspondence of Douglas Lilburn, one of New Zealand’s most esteemed composers. The collection is further supported by an endowment fund, originally settled by Professor Lilburn, currently worth in excess of $1.2 million dollars.

“The worth of this collection to the people of New Zealand cannot be put into dollar figures,” said Rachel Underwood, President of The Friends of the Turnbull Library. “Worse, we predict that other donors, both large and small, will follow suit – believing it wiser to remove the priceless heritage materials they have donated, rather than leave them in the precarious care of an under-resourced institution. This erosion of goodwill should give government serious cause for concern.”

The Friends contend that the restructuring is driven by short-term cost pressures, such as depreciation on charges for the National Library’s new $9.1M computer system. The plan will see the Turnbull Library effectively absorbed within the National Library, and the role of Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library is being substantially undermined to assume a National Library policy emphasis.

“Douglas Lilburn’s decision comes as no surprise to us. In written and oral submissions we have striven to point out that the restructuring’s fundamental flaws will lead to an erosion of public confidence in the Turnbull,” says Mrs Underwood. “The restructuring’s underlying strategy ignores the Turnbull Library’s partnership between the people of New Zealand (i.e. donors) and parliament, as legislated by the National Library Act 1965, and the Turnbull’s importance as a research library.

“The Alexander Turnbull Library was founded in 1918 on the basis of Alexander Turnbull’s bequest. Since then, many generous donations and bequests have followed, enabling the Turnbull to build an enviable reputation as a world-class research and heritage library. Is all this to be undone because of a funding drive? We cannot stress strongly enough the seriousness of the implications of the National Library’s restructuring on the Turnbull Library.”

Mrs Underwood says The Friends are, in the first instance, calling for the restructuring to be immediately suspended. “Looking to the longer term, we believe an amendment to the National Library Act is required, in order to secure, once and for all, the position of the Turnbull Library and the integrity of its Chief Librarian’s role and responsibilities.”

ends

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