Birmingham City Council has confirmed it is making cuts to the number of books it will buy for libraries, after libraries in the area asked members of the public to donate titles.
In a statement, city councillor Penny Holbrook told The Bookseller the council is stopping its book fund.
She said: “As is well documented, we need to make huge savings across the council. Councils across the country are having to make hard choices about what can be afforded, and we simply cannot continue to do everything and fund everything we historically have. We are continuing to look at how we secure the future of all our community libraries but whilst that work is underway we need to make tough choices to save money. One of those choices is a pause on the book fund.
“At the moment we need to examine all requests for new purchases on a case by case basis depending on demand. We have always made choices about which books to buy, but clearly we need to be careful and buy those books that are most needed.”
She said that demands for books from the public were made by individual libraries and said “we do not expect the public to make up for cuts to the budget from the government”, although she added: “We do of course welcome any support the public wish to give our community libraries and the council in general.”
A spokesperson for £183m Library of Birmingham, billed as the “library of the future” in 2013 said it does not accept donations and that the leaflet asking for public donations must have come from another library in the area.
The leaflet read: “Books required! Due to public saving cuts we are no longer purchasing any new books or newspapers. Therefore we are looking for any books that have been published in the last 12 months to be donated to the library. All gratefully received.”
However, Laura Swaffield of The Library Campaign still blamed the council’s library problems on its decision to build the Library of Birmingham.
Swaffield said the demands of the Library of Birmingham have “gutted the small local libraries that people need most”, adding: “This monster building was a stupid extravagance even in the balmy pre-crash era when it was first planned."
Local residents have reacted with anger to Birmingham libraries' request for new book donations. One said the council authority “shuts down a perfectly good library, opens a new £200m one that they can't afford… cuts staff and now asks for donated books and newspapers. You really couldn't make this up."
In a recent blog for The Bookseller, veteran library campaigner Desmond Clarke argued "our libraries are being starved of resources" and that annual investment in new stock is at a record low, just 6 pence in every £1 spent on library services. "Our libraries are being starved of resources and borrowing is in steep decline," Clarke said. "The investment in materials must be urgently addressed."