Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham libraries 'stop buying books'

Library poster and Library of Birmingham

Libraries in Birmingham have stopped buying books in an attempt to help with "huge savings" by the city council.

Some of the 38 local libraries are buying no books or newspapers at all.

The £189m Library of Birmingham - which opened in 2013 - is continuing to buy special collection books such as large print, and some non-fiction titles.

The city council, which needs to save nearly £113m this financial year, said it was "examining future operating models" for the service.

A freeze on buying books is not a blanket policy, the authority said, and "it would examine requests for new purchases on a case-by-case basis".

But because of the savings the council has to make across all departments, there was now a "pause on the book fund".

Image caption One Birmingham library is asking for books to be donated as they are no longer buying them

In February, the Library of Birmingham's opening hours were cut by nearly half - to 40 hours a week - in an attempt to save money.

Since then, 26 hours have been added, but there is a limited service in those extra hours.

Library user Cathy Houghton said: "They've spent so much money on the new Library of Birmingham - this is the outcome.

"Not being able to order any books at all is ridiculous. We should be trying to encourage young children to read, this is just off-putting".

Analysis by Kath Stanczyszyn, Political Reporter, BBC WM

"BOOKS REQUIRED" - that is in big bold letters at the top of a poster put up in one of Birmingham's community libraries - it says: "Due to public savings cuts we are no longer purchasing any new books or newspapers. Therefore we're looking for any books published in the last 12 months to be donated to the library. All gratefully received".

I haven't been able to find out if any other libraries are doing this - but this one at least really is in a pretty desperate situation.

The situation illustrates perfectly the effect of budget cuts on libraries we have heard about before - the main Library of Birmingham had its hours cut - and is only now able to open again into the evening because of the Brasshouse language school taking up residence there.

Birmingham City Council argues it'll still be spending £1m on new purchases across its service this year - but it looks like fiction will be the real victim.

Penny Holbrook, council cabinet member for skills, learning and culture, said the authority had listened to feedback from residents and library campaigners, but must "prioritise expenditure".

"As is well documented, we need to make huge savings across the council. We have been examining several future operating models for community libraries.

"However, as we are also reviewing the future operating model for the council as a whole it makes no sense to reorganise the libraries ahead of this.

"The reorganisation of the council - Future Council - will go out to consultation during the autumn."

She said although they had not "corporately" asked for public donations, some individual libraries had, and she welcomed any support the public wished to give.

"However we do not expect the public to make up for cuts to the budget from the government," she said.

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