Letter: Library sales not fuelled by greed

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The Independent Online
Sir: Norman Pierce (Letters, 12 May) asks what is happening to the stock of British public libraries and suggests the sale of valuable books and other materials is motivated by avarice. On the contrary, hard-pressed local authorities are more likely to be motivated by a desire to replenish the resources necessary for them to carry out their duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service.

The Library Association is extremely concerned about sales of this kind, which can represent a serious threat to the cultural heritage of the nation (and which, for similar reasons, are increasingly common in other kinds of libraries, for example in the academic sector). Viewed over a long term, almost every sale of books from a major collection has brought only short-term gains. Inflation will ensure that apparently high prices realised at auction will seem low when seen in retrospect some time later. We strongly urge libraries to consider carefully alternative methods of raising funds.

However, it makes little sense to attempt to see this activity in isolation from the other pressures that are facing libraries today. Together with the closing of libraries, the cuts in opening hours, the reductions in professional staffing, the reductions in bookfunds, it all adds up to a much more serious threat, to the cultural, education, recreational and economic fabric of our society. Against that background, it seems entirely unreasonable to describe library authorities as avaricious.

Yours faithfully,


Acting Director

Professional Practice

The Library Association

London, WC1