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The perils of relying on second-hand books

Many, if not all, public libraries hold regular book sales and they are a wonderful source of bargains for book-lovers of all ages to take home, as Margaret Ligertwood says (TES, March 1). Using these books to stock a school library, however, is something I and my colleagues (librarians working in a schools library service) have opposed consistently when advising teachers on setting up or reorganising their libraries.

Most public libraries are severely underfunded and the libarians will have thought carefully before selling books. Children's fiction will have been sold for one of two reasons: either it has not been popular and has been hardly used, or it will have been extremely popular (the Enid Blytons and Roald Dahls quoted) and in poor condition.

In the first case, a book that has not been well-used in a public library, where most borrowers are already keen readers, is hardly likely to be an asset in a school library catering for the whole range from avid readers to non-readers. In the second case, what message does an old and battered book give to children about the importance of books and the value and worth of their library?

Buying non-fiction from these book sales is also problematic. Given the pressure on public libraries now to provide homework resources, any book relating to the national curriculum will only have been discarded if it is out-dated or inaccurate.

Children deserve the very best we can provide for them. No wonder children are "reluctant readers" if they are given a job lot of rejects to read. Is a library filled with rejected books going to be an attractive and exciting one? Will it inspire and encourage reading and tempt the TV-watching and video-game-playing children?

I know money is short and demands are many but please please don't think that quantity is more important then quality.

MARY BRYNING 39 Birch Road Oxton Birkenhead, Merseyside

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