The value of old maps and books

Shows allotments for sale in Otahuhu, with names of many of the landowners
From ‘Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 4498-8’

Map from DigitalNZ

It is always disappointing to read about people abusing libraries and today the verdict was realsed on two people charged with stealing nine books and two historic maps worth around $15.000 from a public library in Christchurch. Not only did they steal books and maps they also allowed them to become damaged. Even forgetting the value of these particular items, theft such as this is terrible, because libraries are collections of freely available, shared resources for the benefit of all, and the thoughtless, or selfish actions of a few, have consequences for us all.
Last year an article written by MainSt tried to analyse the different types of library books that were most stolen from American Public libraries. They included required school reading books , text books, and books on taboo subjects. An example of this last category is Staunch – Inside New Zealand’s Gangs by Bill Payne with photographs by Peter Quinnreputedly the most stolen book from New Zealand libraries. (and as I write, it is currently missing from Central City Auckland Research Centre).

Perhaps this is another argument for the greater digitization of old books, maps and documents. And we have just such a  wonderful resource of digital New Zealand items at DigitalNZ A-Tihi O Aotearoa – a collection of more than 20 million digital items including text, images, videos, audio, data, and interactive material. Items you can find here , however,  are not just old , test the results for  “Rugby World Cup”  (images, videos, and text) . It is also a place where you can add your own digital material.

But theft is not just limited to physical items in libraries, as more and more resources become online, it is all too easy to download and reuse, and many people have little idea about what can be fairly downloaded. Just because something is “on the web” does not mean that it can just grabbed, mixed or mashed. But that is a subject for another blog.

Mrs H.

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