CASH-STRAPPED Wigan leisure chiefs have ordered a probe after a library binned some of its books.
Staff were seen throwing up to 100 volumes – mostly hardbacks – into a skip.
The council says that the books were no longer fit for library use, and were dispatched to the tip.
But Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) says the routine is to try to sell or donate surplus stock, and that sending books to the dump is not company policy.
The issue has extra sensitivity, given the authority is having to make swinging budget cuts, which have included a streamlining of library services.
The councillor who raised the alarm over the skipped books blames the incident on the controversial decision to close Atherton library, and “cram” its contents into a resource centre in Hamilton Street.
Coun Norman Bradbury said: “Labour claims that the Atherton and Atherleigh Labour councillors persuaded the Council’s cabinet to save the library. But if running down the present library and throwing dozens of nearly-new books into skips behind the library is saving it, I’m a Dutchman.
“The truth is, the so-called new library is being moved to the resource centre, which is only 115m sq, that’s even small for a resource centre, let alone a library.”
Coun Bradbury said that the Save Atherton Library Group were appalled when it heard that the library staff had been told to throw the books into the skip, “irrespective of age or condition.”
He said: “I understand that a few months ago, the schools were offered some of the books and took away what they could use, but I fail to comprehend why there were so many books left that had to be thrown away.
“Couldn’t they a least have been given to a local charity shop?”
Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, which manages the borough’s libraries on behalf of the council, said that around 90 books were sent to the tip.
The books were “past their best” and no longer fit for library use however.
A spokesman for WLCT said that disposing of books in this way “was not company policy” and they are investigating how and why this has happened.
He said: “Our policy as an organisation is to make every effort to either sell or donate books that have reached the end of their library shelf life. Only after all avenues have been exhausted are the books then sent for recycling.
“When books are recycled we get money from that process which helps buy other volumes to go into library stock.”
He added that the plans for the new library have been overseen by professional librarians and they have agreed that the proposed floor space in the 14 to 19 centre, along with the community room, which is for the use of library groups, is plenty big enough to hold an “excellent selection” of books and still be used by adults and children to a high level of service.
Atherton Labour Coun Susan Loudon said: “The modern library service does not need as much shelf space as it did 100 years ago - as Coun Bradbury would know if he, like me he took time out to work voluntarily in Atherton Library.
“Unlike most other authorities the Wigan Labour Council has ensured that the Library Service will continue in all our communities.”