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Book auction ‘like selling off family silver’
MORE books from the basement of Worcester Library will be sold at auction tomorrow – despite calls not to.
Worcestershire County Council has put up 30 lots and is aiming to make between £11,000 to £16,00 from the sales at Dominic Winter Book Auctions in Gloucestershire.
We exclusively revealed in Saturday’s Worcester News that over the last six months, the council has been auctioning off books, some of which are rare first editions hundreds of years old, coining in £218,735. One book fetched £52,000 alone.
The council claims it is simply streamlining stock as it prepares to move the library from Foregate Street into the Hive, off the Butts, and says the money will be used to catalogue, conserve and digitise its remaining collection.
While the council said the books sold were either duplicates, had little local relevance, were not used, were in a bad condition, or not worth much, its actions have received stinging criticism from historians.
Worcester Civic Society has called for a moratorium on the auctions so books earmarked for sale can be scrutinised.
When asked yesterday whether the council was still pushing ahead with the auction, a spokesman said: “The sale is taking place following a rigorous and systematic process working closely with colleagues from the record office, Worcester city and county museums, the Hurd Library at Hartlebury Castle, and the special collections librarian from the University of Worcester.
“This process has used criteria based on local significance, direct relevance to museum collections, numbers of copies already held in our stocks and usage and condition and we are also working with academic historians from the university to ensure retention of historically significant items.”
Christine Penney, Hurd librarian, said: “The implication that I had advance knowledge of these sales in incorrect.
“I was invited, with a colleague from the University of Worcester, to view the exciting and largely unrecorded remaining treasures only a few weeks ago. I was told that the sales were ‘not about money’ but, as a professional librarian, I was greatly concerned.”
Dr Pat Hughes, a building historian specialising in documentary research, of Bromwich Road, St John’s, Worcester, said: “I am amazed that at a time when Worcester is trying to establish itself as a centre for academic excellence, such a resource is being dispersed for the sake of short-term hard cash.
"It is very like selling off the family silver.”
Alan Higgins, a Worcestershire Archaeological Society member, said: “Worcester is now a university city and the people concerned should be ashamed of themselves.
“What sort of message is this sending out about Worcester being a centre of culture?”