“Where have all the books gone?” A warning from Loughton


LIBRARY users across Essex have expressed concern that the number of books continues to decline in Essex libraries, prompting campaign group SOLE to submit a Freedom of Information request on changes to book stock over the last year.

Alan Fricker in Loughton said:-‘”As a Loughton Library user I have been shocked by the removal of books from the local stock. This includes popular items such as cook books that are now much reduced in number. I have often borrowed these in the past. A library without decent book stock is unable to meet the needs of the town. Particularly concerning is the apparent loss of local history materials – these are rarely available online and a vital local resource.”

A Freedom of Information request previously revealed Loughton Library saw a drop of books from 70,964 in 2007/08, to 41,804 in 2017/18.*

A spokesperson for the Loughton and District Historical Society (LDHS) expressed concern over the loss of local history books:-

‘It’s a great pity this cull has been done county wide.The LDHS has been offered some discarded items – thanks very much to the staff concerned – but this may not be the case in other branches, especially at Chelmsford, where some quite scarce items appeared on the sale shelf.’

Harlow Library user Karen Quinn added:-

‘This is so true, I was shocked when I went into Harlow Town library last week, most of the bookshelves have been removed.’

North east Essex library user Brenda Wells is concerned that many books are ending up in second hand bookshops:-

‘There has been a noticeable shrinkage in the number of available books in libraries on the north Essex coast. A large area on the first floor of Colchester Library is now a well-stocked book shop where books in remarkably good condition are being sold off for a small donation. This is compounding the book shortage and a questionable use of resources.’

A spokesperson for SOLE said:-‘Local history books and local studies books should be kept in local public libraries so the entire public can access them. To get rid of rare local history books altogether shows that Essex County Council [ECC] lacks a basic understanding of what a library is for, and that it is abandoning its duty to be guardians of important local historical documents. The cuts in general book stocks are shocking. Between 2007/08 and 2017/18 nearly half a million books were cut in Essex, around a third of the overall total. 1,292,431 books last year, down from 1,765,358 ten years previously.’*

‘SOLE has always maintained that any drop in library use has been down to cuts in opening hours and book stock. If a bookshop owner chose to sell a lot less books and reduce its opening hours, they would expect to see a decline in business. This is precisely what ECC has done.’

SOLE is staging a ‘save our librarians – no closures by stealth’ day of action on Saturday 25th January, with events across the county. More details will be found in this previous press release here https://www.facebook.com/2198820073666446/posts/2503505606531223/

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