October 2012 | Nate Pedersen

Manchester Library Halts Book Destruction

manchester library.jpgA controversial effort by the UK's largest municipal library to pulp hundreds of thousands of books was halted earlier this week by a writers' campaign.  Manchester Public Library, in the midst of a three year, £170m overhaul, was thought to have begun destroying books due to a miscalculation in the amount of shelf space available in their newly revamped library. The information and motivations behind the decision - which was handed down from Manchester City Council - were not made clear.

The council claims the books being pulped are duplicates, outdated, or obsolete. A spokesman for the council was quoted in The Guardian, saying "All rare, valuable, historic and local history items are being kept." Those qualities, however, which are already subjective, become particularly troublesome when trying to guess what future generations might find "valuable," "rare," or "historic."

After news of the pulping broke in the press, a large public outcry ensued.  Carol Ann Duffy, the current poet laureate in Britain, wrote an open protest letter to the head of libraries in Machester which attracted the signatures of a variety of literary names including Jeanette Winterson, Michael Symmonds Roberts, and Jackie Kay. The letter, and the surrounding press coverage, seem to have at least temporarily halted the pulping process.  According to the library's friends group, the books marked for pulping are now being moved into temporary storage. 

A long term solution, however, may still be a long time in coming.