19 JANUARY 2002, Page 27

The battle for books

From Mr Bob Duckett Sir: I bear no grudge that for £60 Mr Benedict King was able to acquire six volumes of Lord Byron's collected letters and journals at the expense of the citizens of Lambeth (Letters, 12 January). Lambethans have other libraries in London more suited to

Byron esoterica. As a professional chuckerouter (aka stock manager) of books from public libraries for 25 years, I might well have done likewise (though I trust copies of Byron's poems are still there, and a biography or two). I hope, however, the very serious point of Julia Lewis's article ('An axe to the roots of our culture', 15/22 December) is not lost. Although a chucker-outer. I am also a King Canute of the bookstacks, defending classic fiction and non-fiction against less bookish colleagues making space for non-bookish activities and scrambling to meet some very daft and shortsighted government standards. By any stretch of the imagination, a public library should have more than seven out of the hundred 'masterpieces of all time'.

This does not mean that we cannot learn to love the Internet, provide drop-in advice centres, or get kiddies to find imaginative uses for toilet rolls and sticky paper. But please, citizens of Lambeth, and Everywhere, have a regard for our literature before we are completely submerged in the new barbarism of mouse-clickers, sonic hedgehogs and instant info.

Bob Duckett

Rcfcrencc librarian, Bradford