Updated: Friday, 7th August 2020 @ 1:30pm

Manchester Central Library boss denies ‘cultural vandalism’ over controversial book pulping

Manchester Central Library boss denies ‘cultural vandalism’ over controversial book pulping

By Sean-Paul Doran

Critics are calling for increased public scrutiny into plans to dispose of an unprecedented number of Manchester Central Library books by next year.

More than 300,000 books, manuals and periodicals will not be taking their place on the brand-new shelves and will be sold, donated or pulped for recycling.

Although it is common practice for public libraries to manage stock like this, the scale and apparent lack of transparency of the Manchester Central Library operation has cause widespread concern.

Alan Gibbon, a children’s author and organiser of the Campaign For The Book, is warning the public to be vigilant about the removal of the books and is worried the operation is undermining centuries of history.

He said: “The removal of books seems to be much more extensive than the usual process of administering the stock.

“Who decides which books are 'outdated?' Does knowledge and culture not have a history and prehistory?

“At the very least, the exercise should be subjected to public scrutiny. We must not allow the casual destruction of books to proceed without clear checks and balances.”

The iconic library is undergoing refurbishment in a bid to make it more modern and accessible to the public.

In the past only 30% of the building was open to the public and it is hoped that more than 70% will be accessible upon completion of the three-year, £170million project.

An online petition emerged on micro-blogging site Twitter this month, in which the poster described the project as ‘cultural vandalism on an industrial scale’.

The cause has been signed over 400 times to date and is being circulated throughout the web to attract more public attention to the issue.

Neil MacInnes, Head of Libraries for Manchester City Council, is overseeing the project and has refuted suggestions of wrongdoing.

“Despite the alarmist claims which are being made in some quarters, we can reassure people that all rare, valuable, historic and local history collections will be kept.

“While it is correct that some of the items which have been amassed over time will not be returning, these are obsolete items such as outdated reference books, duplicates such as paperbacks we have in hardback or books in such poor condition it would not be viable to repair them.”

Mr MacInnes is describing the plans as an attempt to create a world-class, modern library fit for purpose in the 21st century as technological advances continue to change the way information is accessed.

“The idea that the library will be saying goodbye to valuable stock is just plain wrong,” he added.

Reports had emerged on the internet claiming the reason for the disposal of the large amount of stock was that the council had underestimated the storage space needed in the newly-refurbished building.

Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party UK welcomed Mr MacInnes’ attempts at clearing up the issue but warned that there are still questions to be answered.

He said: “If there is confusion about the future about the Central library's book stock, Manchester's Labour council only have themselves to blame.

“In a typical lack of transparency, no attempt has been made to really engage with concerned readers, only to do a damage limitation exercise.

“The official statement on the alarming allegations of destruction of library books is encouraging, but it fails to address any of the key worries plainly.

“There are still questions to be answered – this is after all about equal free access to our shared culture.”

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