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Irish Literary Bodies Saddened by Public Library Procurement Tender

Writing.ie | Magazine | News for Writers | The Big Idea

At the launch of the ‘Bookselling for Ireland’ Manifesto in July 2016, the Irish book industry called on the Irish Government to re-evaluate controversial plans for a new national library tender for books. The Manifesto highlighted the potentially serious economic and cultural damage to indigenous suppliers if the contract was awarded outside Ireland.

Despite this opposition, the tender process went ahead in September last year, and the contracts were announced on 16th December 2016. The news has been greeted with dismay by Irish cultural, literary and books bodies. Of the €6 million annual contract on offer, 60% has been awarded to suppliers based outside Ireland.  Over the four years of the contract, €14 million will be going outside of the country, posing a very real threat to both Irish jobs and communities. This development, coupled with the fact that the national tender for academic libraries last year also went to a supplier outside of Ireland, means that a total of €28 million has been removed from the book industry here in Ireland.

Irish booksellers and library suppliers offer unique local industry knowledge, and have been instrumental in supporting Irish publishers and authors by ensuring Irish content is available in Irish libraries.

The Government controls 100% of the market and its procurement policy will decide how the market will develop. Given the importance placed on supporting SMEs, it is disappointing to see a national tender process harming small businesses and putting them at a disadvantage, or out of business.

There is a way forward.  Under the European Directive, the Irish Government is free to implement a ‘Cultural Exemption’ whereby such tender processes would be subject to cultural sensitivities.  This would have the effect of making the chances of Irish library suppliers winning contracts much greater. This is a legal option open to our legislators, and one which is followed in Scotland.  The Irish book trade urges the Irish Government to pursue this Cultural Exemption.  It would not lock out suppliers from overseas, but it would provide smaller Irish firms with some security for the future.

If the dedicated Irish library supply companies that have lost business in this tender are forced to close, it is likely that no local entrants will ever be able to compete for tenders in the future because of the minimum turnover requirements. In these circumstances Irish companies must win in every tender competition to sustain their business, and the large multinationals only need to win once for Irish suppliers to not have the business.

Bookselling Ireland and Words Ireland (comprised of Children’s Books Ireland, Irish Writers Centre, Literature Ireland, Munster Literature Centre, Poetry Ireland and Publishing Ireland). 

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