Paper pulp is defended

August 11, 2000

The British Library has defended its decision to dispose of nearly 10 per cent of its historic newspaper collection, after opponents described the space-saving plan as vandalism.

Approximately 60,000 volumes of foreign newspapers, dating back 130 years, have been removed from the newspaper repository in Colindale, North London, to make way for current and future titles.

The plans were announced in 1996, when the British Library advertised for "new homes" for the papers. A British Library spokesman said the collections were offered free to organisations in the countries of origin but take-up was slow.

"Some of them have been sold at auction and some have been given away but there is still quite a considerable amount left. The very last resort is that they will be pulped but we would obviously rather find useful homes for them all," said the spokesman.

Legislation prevents the library from disposing of British or Commonwealth newspapers.

Nicholson Baker, an American novelist who leads a US organisation to preserve historic newspapers, criticised the British Library's plans in an article in The New Yorker.

He said: "The (British Library's) foreign collection was one of the finest in the world. Its dispersal ought to have been publicly discussed and governed by laws designed to protect holdings of such historical and monetary value."

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