Firstly, it is a scandal that so many books were disposed of, with no apparent thought for alternatives. That some books need to be weeded is accepted by most people. But there should always be a robust policy in place to make sure that where possible books make their way to a new use, be that other libraries or through sales to locals. And when books are sold, they should get the best prices.
Secondly, those weeding policies should aim at minimising removals where possible. The length of time between loans is important, but should be generous. Repair of damaged books should be looked at. When planning libraries, room for bookstock is primary (hello, Library of Birmingham planners…)
Thirdly, rare and/or valuable books should not be weeded but used as promotional materials. A colleague of mine did so at one of our centres, with beautiful but not often borrowed art books being made into a new Special Collection.
Fourthly, where there is a Reserve Stock/ Stack it needs to be promoted and monitored.
Finally, it is interesting to see how many people in the debate over Walthamstow link the decline in professional posts to the book losses. The lack of any oversight in the weeding and cataloguing do seem to have had an impact. The policies of the councillors seems to have done the rest.
As for the eulogy to libraries of old, I am not so sure. Certainly we need to promote the value and power of reading, but it doesn’t follow that we need the reverent mystique around reading that is talked of.
Lots of books, nicely displayed, well chosen and enthusiastically promoted is the key. And that can all be done in a good Children’s Library and still leave room for the quiet and reflective Library, to which in good time those children who want it can move. And both can live alongside computer (and future multimedia) spaces.
If only councillors and architects- and librarians- had the imagination to build such a place.