Ten of thousands of books may have been destroyed by Manchester Central Library, campaigners have claimed. However a Manchester council representative has asserted that only those "duplicated, outdated or otherwise obsolete" have been got rid of.
In 2012 the Friends of Manchester Central Library won a campaign to halt the disposal of around 300,000 books from its reference collection. The books would originally not have been returned to the refurbished library, which opened last year.
Following the campaign, which was backed by authors including poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and writer Jeanette Winterson, the council said the books would be stored in a warehouse.
Now the Friends of Central Library say that a Freedom of Information request has revealed about 240,000 items have been pulped, according to a report in the Independent.
Neil MacInnes, Manchester’s head librarian, wrote in an email that the items, representing more than 40% of the reference stock, were “withdrawn and are no longer available”.
Most non-fiction books were sold to a local company, Revival Books, which disposed of them.
Two philatelic collections were sent to the British Library and other collections sent out on loan have been returned, and here have been no losses to the special collections, rare books, local history collections or the City Archives.
The Friends of Central Library said in a statement: “For [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.”
Councillor Rosa Battle, executive member for culture and leisure, said: “The only books which were withdrawn as part of this vital housekeeping exercise were those which were duplicated, outdated or otherwise obsolete. The team ensured that the depth and breadth of the general reference collection was good across all subject areas.”