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Book burning at the Central Library?

As Central Library temporarily moves, rumours reach us of knowledge being thrown in skips

Published on March 24th 2010.

Book burning at the Central Library?

One of the more emotive and symbolic acts of destruction is book burning, or shredding, or dumping.

Of course to researchers in future years an out-of-date periodical might prove to be of immense value, so we'll have to trust Central Library when they say they are being very careful about what they keep and what they throw away.

Any hint of people, especially those that represent the authorities, getting rid of the wisdom of ages, even in the digital era, produces a shiver down the spine. It takes us back to the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century or present day Islamists: those who would control the knowledge we can access.

It feels somehow terribly wrong, gut wrong - even if done as part of the local government workings of a city in a liberal western democracy.

It certainly feels very wrong to numbers of people who have emailed Confidential with rumblings of discontent about book dumping at Manchester Central Library.

We've had messages such as these:

'Bumped into a pal last night who works at Central Library. Long story short - he tells me books and journals are being skipped. This, of course, is unacceptable, I don't need to spell out why, to intelligent people such as yourselves, do I?'

'Books are being destroyed at the Central Library as part of the move, is there anything that you can find out about this.'

'If books, as rumour suggests, are being dumped then we will lose valuable knowledge. Digital data is very susceptible to corruption or distortion, the printed word less so.'

So what is the Library ditching, if anything?

Confidential asked Neil MacInnes, Head of Library Services if the sinister rumours are correct. He gave us this statement.

'Manchester Central Library is renowned for the richness, variety, breadth and depth to its collections and the need to safeguard the legacy of our heritage for future generations is at the forefront of our minds. We love books and take our responsibilities seriously. But all libraries carry out regular housekeeping and will, as part of that process, dispose of some items. As part of the move, we are thoroughly examining our entire collection.

'The vast majority of our collection will either be going into secure storage or will be available at the temporary City Library on Deansgate. But we will be disposing of some material. Examples would include out of date text books, directories and yearbooks, duplicate items and some items which are in very poor physical condition and have simply reached the end of their shelf life, although we would stress that with those kinds of books we will always carefully consider the merits of keeping them for posterity.

'We will also take steps to ensure all options for any books we are disposing of are considered. For example, we had a public book sale last November and also have an arrangement with the British Heart Foundation to take books that might sell in their charity shops.

'No-one who works at Central Library likes to say goodbye to any book. We will always err on the side of caution, but in some instances with books that are no longer needed and have nowhere to go, we will recycle them. I would stress again that this is part of the natural cycle of stock management for all libraries.'

That's the official response and it seems reasonable enough.

Of course to researchers in future years an out-of-date periodical might prove to be of immense value, so we'll have to trust Central Library when they say they are being very careful about what they keep and what they throw away.

Of course if any of our good readers should come forth with hard evidence of valuable stock needlessly being destroyed – pictures would be good – then we'll pursue this much further.

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Dave SpannerMarch 24th 2010.

I grabbed a couple out of the bins last night, got a bit bored of Tony Blair's book on dealing with manic depression, and Sir Richard Leese's 'Notes on running the town', but the Gospel of Mary Magdalene I found is is brilliant.

Leigh ScottMarch 24th 2010.

It bothers me that the central library are deciding to get rid of any books atall.If they are not in a position to keep them then we should have a 48 hr event inviting the local residents to take them to their home or business.Residential homes hospitals youth centres would gladly take the opportunity to take such an opportunity up.I am seething and there is no excuse for such an arrogant assumption regarding a books value to the city's residents.In-fact I would be more than prepared to spend some of my business and personal time investing in to such an event if mancon and the libarary were prepared to do so.

Leigh ScottMarch 24th 2010.

It may well be part of a natural stock cycle of management for all libraries which to me makes it even worse that it happens further afield.

Smyth HarperMarch 24th 2010.

Scoteee, did you read what the library has to say about it? They had a public sale last November, they give books to charity shops. They only throw stuff away as a last resort. I think you talking about the "arrogant assumptions" of library staff is, in itself, a rather arrogant assumption of the motivation of people who work with and love books. I do trust them to do right by our city's book collection and in fairness to the council (which in fairness I work for), Manchester is investing in libraries and books while other cities and authorities around the country actually are slashing and burning library budgets.

Leigh ScottMarch 24th 2010.

Smitty with respect I did read what the library had to say about it.You are missing my point.Two things - firstly it was clearly stated that an employee of the library commented on the dumping of books so I would hazard a guess that the source is pretty reliable and he/she also loves books (working there for your employers) and secondly although the library had a book sale in November 2008 (not last year) and also endorsed by councillor Mike Amesbury, they are making an assumption that becuase they have a copy or that some books maybe tatty they are justified in binning them. Sale or no sale binning them is not acceptable to me when other people may well find a use for them.So yes I stand by my original statement "there is no excuse for such an arrogant assumption"

AnonymousMarch 24th 2010.

I found a collection of Gordo's love poems, it's a first edition too. Sadly my brain will never be the same again

AvoMarch 24th 2010.

Did one of them go along the lines of...<br><br>
Roses are red, violets are blue.<br>I've got a big knife. Get in the van.

AnonymousMarch 24th 2010.

Ah, you've read it too? I particularly enjoyed this missive:<br><br> Would a rose by any other name not smell as sweet love?<br>You're a bit cheeky aren't you<br>Ehhhhhhhhhhh

AnonymousMarch 24th 2010.

His favourite stalking song is in there too <br><br>
One way or another I'm gonna find ya, I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha<br>
One way or another I'm gonna win ya, I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha<br>
One way or another I'm gonna see ya, I'm gonna meetcha meetcha meetcha meetcha<br>
One day, maybe next week, I'm gonna meetcha, I'm gonna meetcha, I'll meetcha<br><br>

I will drive past your house<br>
And if the lights are all down<br>
I'll see who's around<br>

orMarch 25th 2010.

Every move you make,every step you take,I'll be watching you...ha!

Captain Jean Luc PicardMarch 28th 2010.

Perhaps the Central Library should have simply pointed out at the beginning of the process that it may destroy some of the more useless material and have encouraged the press down to view it as a matter of impartial public record.

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