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[BKARTS] Librarian admits he was paid by US bookseller
Librarian admits he was paid by US bookseller
April 27, 2004
The librarian who sold $680,000 worth of books owned by the NSW
Parliament to antiquarian dealers was allowed to retire before an
inquiry could begin into his business dealings with the biggest
second-hand book seller in America.
The Herald has confirmed that the librarian, Rob Brian, was
questioned over a possible breach of the NSW Protected Disclosures
Act after he called in a senior colleague and wrongly accused him of
reporting alleged irregularities in the sales.
Mr Brian sold more than 3500 books from Parliament's 19th century
collections to clear much-needed shelf space and raise funds for the
An inquiry by former magistrate John Heagney based on claims made by
Mark D'Arney, who took his own life in March, found that discounts of
up to 38 per cent had been offered to private dealers. Sales records
had been altered and dealers given access to the books unsupervised.
It recommended disciplinary action. However Mr Brian has angrily
defended the charges, arguing he was simply attempting to clear the
library of unwanted and unused books
in the face of budget cutbacks. Mr Brian retired a fortnight ago.
However, it has emerged that a whistleblower has provided to clerks
of the NSW Parliament a new file of emails exchanged between Mr Brian
and executives of the US company William S. Hein.
These reveal that Mr Brian was paid to help market and sell an online
sales catalogue of law publications.
The emails show he negotiated to sell to Hein the NSW Parliament's
collection of 600, leather-bound volumes of the US congressional
journal covering the years 1873 to 1964. The collection had been
stored by Sydney University's Fisher library but a shortage of shelf
space meant the books needed to be returned to the NSW parliamentary
library. Hein offered a credit note for $US5000 to buy the volumes.
The emails reveal that in the end, the collection was handed over in
exchange for the parliamentary and university libraries receiving a
discount on subscriptions to the Hein online service.
Mr Brian told the Herald that at all times he had tried to make
decisions for the benefit of the parliamentary library. All deals
were an "entrepreneurial" approach to rationalising library assets
and providing a modern service to MPs.
"I am disappointed that I cannot finish the task begun with good
intentions. It has been a very successful project and raised
$680,000," he said.
He had been informed by his solicitor that his dealings with William
S. Hein could be seen as a conflict of interest but he sincerely
believed it was rather a "confluence of interest".
Mr Brian said Hein was the largest seller of second-hand books in the
US and its database of law reviews was the best in the world: "I got
the online service for $595 a year [for the library] and I
recommended it to the presiding officers [of the Parliament] and they
accepted. Then someone discovered my long-standing relationship with
Hein and the conflict of interest [came up] and I suppose it was but
I thought I was managing it."
Asked if he had been paid to market the company's services, he said:
"Hein did pay me some money. But I paid taxes on it, I donated to
charities. I have never done anything . . . I can see how it could be
seen but my conscience is clear . . . I was threatened with an
"Alternatively if I retired and they wrote [a letter] exonerating me.
I am 65 and had planned to retire late last year."
Mr Brian said his relationship with the Hein company had begun in the
1970s and he had known the founder and his sons. "I have always done
things with the interest of my employer first," he said.
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