Doofus Of The Day #852

Tonight’s award goes to the Birmingham City Council in England.

A council which spent £188 million [almost US $294 million] on a state-of-the-art new library has been criticised by readers and authors after it ran out of money and asked the public to donate books.

Libraries in Birmingham have posted notices requesting members donate their new and recently-released books, saying they would be “gratefully received”.

Birmingham City Council confirmed it had placed its own book fund on “pause”, after being compelled to make “huge savings” across the board as a result of budget cuts nationwide.

It will now only consider buying new books on a “case by case basis”, depending on demand, and would welcome “any support” from the public, a spokesman said.

A poster detailing the request, circulated on social media from a local BBC radio station, provoked criticism from writers including S J Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep, who said it made him “really angry”. Neil Gaiman posted the news with a simple “!”, while Jonathan Coe called it “beyond terrible”.

. . .

Elizabeth Ash, a trustee of The Library Campaign which works to protect services, called the move “astonishing”.

“It’s unbelievable,” she told the Telegraph. “They’ve spent all that money on that big library, then cut the hours; now to appeal for books is just madness.”

There’s more at the link.

For my part, I can’t begin to understand why a library building (and a city library, at that, not a top-flight national institution like the Library of Congress) should cost almost $300 million, excluding books.  For Heaven’s sake, what were they doing – gold-plating the shelves???


EDITED TO ADD:  Commenter Ritchie suggests:  “It seems there are libraries in major U.S. cities that have been abandoned with books in place. Perhaps a booklift, before the roofs give way completely?”

In that light, here are a couple of photographs of an abandoned municipal library in Detroit.  I’ve no idea who took them – they’re in numerous sources around the Internet, as a quick search will reveal.

Yep . . . if we can’t look after ours, perhaps they can do a better job in Birmingham!


  1. It seems there are libraries in major U.S. cities that have been abandoned with books in place. Perhaps a booklift, before the roofs give way completely?

  2. Minneapolis did something similar. We, led by our elected Library Board, built a $100 million dollar big-name architect showpiece with glass walls (in Minnesota! Imagine the heat bill). Then the library board promptly went bankrupt, and the city libraries were taken over by the county.

    A good outcome, except for the money.

  3. Or digitize it. Add a bunch of obsolete tablet PCs/kindle/Nook readers and a wifi server with digital books. Dead trees are not worth the cost of printing them any more, let alone buying and shipping them.

  4. GenericViews – a REALLY bad idea. print it accessible and visible to all, as long as they are physically intact. But there is a VAST amount of printed material that isn't digital, and will likely never be digitized, out there. Yes, by all means have digital for modern stuff AS WELL, but things like The Memoirs of Cordell Hull isn't electronic, but I picked up a 1943 paper copy for $0.50. Thinking paper is of no value is only one small step above thinking that history has no value.

  5. A sign that civilization is reverting to the jungle, is how the repositories of our collective knowledge and art are treated. In Detroit, this isn't surprising. We must fight to keep the anarchy from spreading.

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