Manchester Central Library: Book destruction during £170m revamp

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and other notable writers such as Simon Armitage and Jeanette Winterson are among the people who called for an end to the destruction of thousands of non-fiction titles in Manchester’s Central Library. The library recently reopened having been temporarily closed during its whopping £170m revamp in 2012.

Activists launched a high-profile campaign along with the famous authors to stop the pulping of the books after they had been told that a collection of 240, 000 books had been held back.

The campaigners described the pulping as “cultural vandalism on an industrial scale”. Since the protest, nothing more has been heard until the Friends of Central Library group recently submitted a Freedom of Information request. Manchester’s head librarian Neil MacInnes wrote in an email that around 240, 000 items representing more than 40 per cent of the reference stock, had been “withdrawn and are no longer available”.

Most of the non-fiction books were sold to local company, Revival Books, which destroyed them all. Some collections were sent to the British Library in the capital whilst a few collections that had been loaned out have since been returned. There was no loss to the rare books in the City Archives; a reason for some to breathe a sigh of relief.

The executive member for culture and leisure Councillor Rosa Battle said, “The only books which were withdrawn as part of this vital housekeeping exercise were those which were duplicated, outdated or otherwise obsolete”.

In response, the Friends of Central Library said in a statement that for the library staff to have “quietly and systematically disposed of 240,000 publicly owned library books with no public notification is, we think, morally reprehensible. What has been lost are the irreplaceable collections of reference and lending non-fiction books, covering every conceivable subject, giving that extraordinary breadth and depth of subject coverage that only long-established libraries can provide”.

Charlotte Taylor, an English teacher from Manchester, remembers growing up using the library. She told TNT, “Those books are not going to be available online or any literary shop. They are gone. Who are they [the librarians] to decide what is relevant or outdated or what should and shouldn’t be in the library?”

 

TNT News Yasin Chinembiri

 

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