Shock at library as reference books go

A SHOCKED user of Billingshurst Library has told of his concerns after the reference section at the village facility was removed overnight last Friday.

Graham Harper said he visited the library in Mill Lane last Friday to use the reference section. When he returned on Saturday morning he was shocked to discover the reference section of some 60 books had been removed.

Mr Harper, aged 69, of London Road, Adversane, said he has used Billingshurst Library and its reference section regularly over the past 36 years.

He added: “Only one in four people in my age group use the internet and the loss of the reference section will have a major impact for many residents in the Billingshurst area.

“As taxpayers we have paid for the books and we pay for the library service. It is utterly unacceptable that the reference section has been removed.

“There was no consultation process and no notice given to readers. This was an action by stealth.’’

He said he could not understand how the removal offered any savings for West Sussex County Council as he presumed the books had already been paid for by the taxpayer.

Mr Harper said he contacted the library service to complain and was told the books had been removed to storage in Worthing, but individual titles could be made available to access in future by prior request.

He now intends to lodge a formal objection with the county council, requesting that the reference section is reinstated at Billingshurst.

He is also asking Billingshurst Parish Council to take up the matter.

Mr Harper, who stood as a UKIP candidate for Billingshurst in the Horsham District Council elections earlier this year, said he was also concerned that similar cuts would happen at other village libraries.

He said: “The definition of a library must be an orderly collection of books for reference and access to information.

“Reference books have to be considered the most important element of a library. Remove them and what is the point of the library?”

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “Work on updating the reference stock at Billingshurst was carried out as part of a planned programme in all West Sussex libraries.

“The library had a considerable amount of outdated material, mostly added ten to 20 years ago. It was largely unused and very dusty. Budgets for stock replacement have been reduced this year, and reference books need to be as up to date as possible.

“The resources on the electronic library are completely up to date and available 24 hours a day. If customers are unable to use computers, all staff can answer questions using the electronic library.

“West Sussex is one of many authorities who are replacing out of date reference stock in small libraries with electronic products.

“One big advantage is that these are usually available in all libraries, instead of just the larger ones.”