It has become evident that, over the last few months, what was hitherto a fairly comprehensive reference section at Watford Library has been reduced to a pitiful remnant.

On Saturday last, I noticed that the 20 shelves that had comprised the already much-reduced collection, were down to a mere seven half-filled, and 13 in effect empty. This so-called ‘reference’ collection now contains no dictionaries (English or foreign language), no atlases (world or UK road), nor any encyclopaedia. Furthermore, all the telephone directories have been removed.

There has been no consultation or forewarning of these disappearances and the staff are unable to say where particular items have gone. Some ‘may be’ in ‘the stack’, that is, a locked area elsewhere in the library building, and thus inaccessible to the public. Others ‘may have been’ moved to Welwyn - there appears to be no record of what has gone where, let alone why.

This malpractice cannot be excused as ‘money-saving’ as all the items have already been paid for, and over the months, the shelves have become emptier, rather than filled with new items. The council tax payers of Hertfordshire (the county is the library authority) should be aware that their property has been removed, surreptitiously, and a vital educational and research facility has been effectively destroyed.

As there seems to be no other explanation for this bizarre policy, perhaps that is the reason - to render the reference library so useless that customers give up on it. The ‘library consultation’ some months ago made no proposals about reference collections that would fit these events, although the results of the ‘consultation’ do not appear to have been published, as doubtless the public was hostile to the dangerous nostrum of ‘outsourcing’ the library service. Perhaps ‘wrecking-by-stealth’ is the county’s alternative.

Michael Kings

Highwood Avenue, Bushey