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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Transparency and Accountability -The faceless, nameless Croydon spokesman speaks

Croydon library users have grown increasingly concerned about books being boxed up across the borough as no one has seen anything quite like it before.  Previously, any unwanted books have been put on public display for sale.

Croydon Council is aware of the concerns and have contributed comments to an article on the Croydon Advertiser website,  Croydon Council denies book sales mean closures. At the point of posting the website is down so we reproduce the article below. 

So let’s examine the facts.

The Advertiser reports that concerns, or as they put it, ‘rumours’, “have reached a crescendo in recent weeks after library users noticed books being sent away from libraries."

As a campaign group we are not aware of any library users being concerned about books leaving library premises, just a genuine concern about the visible effects of this unprecedented cull of book stock.

The Advertiser claims that a spokesman for the council stated  that the library service has simply changed the way it handles unneeded stock. This unidentified council officer claims that instead of trying to sell unused and tatty books to library users, libraries sell their books to company Revival Books, which recycles or donates the books.

We think this story again demonstrated the Advertiser’s unwavering trust that what they are told by the council is completely true and warrants no further investigation.

Here’s what Revival Books themselves claim to do. You can find Revival Books here:, and we quote,
“We seek to find a second life for as many of the books as possible and we sell these in retail outlets or on the Internet.  Working with a paper recycling partner we recycle any books we do not use and these books are pulped for on-going use.”
So Revival Books do not, as the Advertiser claims to have been told by this faceless, nameless council spokesperson, just recycle or donate the books that they collect.  Where is the economic sense in that? Their prime motive is to sell off, for profit, any book stock they can through a network of retail outlets and on the internet. And if you click here you can see a list of all those currently for sale.

It’s not just the new practice of boxing up stock that is concerning residents, it is the sheer scale of the exercise that is causing alarm, evidenced by the appearance of rows of empty shelves in some branches and the complete removal of carousels, previously packed full of paperbacks, in at least one library. 

The Advertiser goes on to report that this faceless, nameless spokesperson claimed that,
 “the new approach generates money and means none of the books has to go to landfill.”
Surely this is a terrible admission that the council have been dumping all their excess books in landfill sites whilst expecting residents to recycle. Did the reporter not think to question this?

The faceless, nameless council spokesman goes on to offer,
"There aren't going to be any closures. There are clearly some people out there who are deliberately trying to raise concerns by getting library users needlessly worried about non-existent library closure plans."
Croydon Library Campaigners were first to break this story and we know residents have made direct contact with the Advertiser to pass information to them.  Why is it that the Advertiser declines to speak with the residents and campaigners highlighting these issues and swallows completely the clearly flawed offerings of a council spokesperson who is clearly unwilling even to be identified?

Let’s not forget either that it was the Advertiser who broke the story of New Addington Library closing, which we have already covered here How can the same paper print something that directly contradicts their own exclusive about the New Addington closure?

The Advertiser is also the same paper to report positive progress on Upper Norwood Joint Library, which we covered here. Given the evidence it seems this is anything but the case.

And we also put our questions to Cllr Bashford, where we covered the issue of the concerns on the massive cull of book stock, which we reproduce again here:

Certainly the book stock being removed is not being replaced with anything like a similar volume of new stock.  No wonder residents and campaigners are concerned, and rightly so. 

If the council really wishes to allay residents’ fears wouldn't the easiest option be to give residents clear and correct information?  

No wonder this council spokesperson wished to remain nameless. Shouldn't this coyness to be named, coupled with all the glaring flaws in what he had to offer, have given rise to caution before the Advertiser went on to print yet more incorrect information?  We certainly think so. 

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