Thursday, November 22, 2007

How 250,000 Books Can Disappear

How can a public library system (with ten library locations) lose almost a quarter of a million books? One British library system has figured out a way:

ALMOST a quarter of a million books have gone missing from Waltham Forest libraries amid claims they have been burned or pulped.

That means there are 60 per cent fewer books in local libraries now than there were two years ago.

Library worker Lyndon Holmes told the Guardian: "We have to tell the public we can't get the books for them.
"I know for a fact lots of them were taken to the tip, at least two van loads. There were all sorts, but I know there were brand new books."

All the borough's non-recyclable rubbish is taken to the London Waste depot at Edmonton to be burned. And anything not already sorted for recycling is destroyed along with the rest.

Mr Holmes said the books were dumped to make space in the refurbished Walthamstow Central Library and, by the time work was finished, there was not enough staff left in employment to sort them, give them away or sell them.

According to official figures presented to the council's cabinet in July, Waltham Forest's book stock has fallen from 1,738 per thousand people in 2004-5 to 717 per thousand people in April this year. That is a cull of 229,725 books, based on the current population of 225,000.

Nearly 75,000 books vanished during January and March this year alone.

David Brangwyn, a former librarian at Walthamstow Central Library, said staff had spent weeks packing and labelling books worth thousands of pounds before the library was refurbished but no-one knew where they went.

"They were perfectly good books and there was no reason to throw them away," he said.
Cllr Reardon refused to comment at the meeting and when the Guardian later contacted her. She said she would answer campaigners' questions at the next meeting on January 28.
Way to go, Councillor Geraldine Reardon. That gives your people two more months to lose thousands more. I suspect that you had better have some good answer prepared by the time you do find the courage to explain yourself. This whole episode is disgraceful.


  1. Some libraries in my area (Connecticut USA) put them in the dumpster. They don't even want to sell them at their own library fundraiser book sales lest the citizens find out they took the books out of circulation.

    Some libraries also donate their library discards to other towns to sell as they don't want to throw them in the trash yet don't want their citizens knowing the collection was culled.

    The challenge to have space in the library is a problem.

  2. Sad as I find it, I do understand that libraries have to cull books if they are going to continue to buy new ones, Christine. In fact, I often check the dumpster behind my own library to see what's been tossed and have taken home a few books that I'm really happy to have saved that way.

    But I don't think this was the same thing. These folks seem to have destroyed some books by accident, incompetence, or some combination of the two. Their own ex-employees are pointing the finger at them looks like.