UP TO 50,000 books could vanish from shelves in Ealing central library if a planned rennovation goes ahead.

Old, "unpopular" and out-of-date books will get thrown away, with the rest being put into storage.

The cull is due to the number of shelves in the library being drastically cut because of a multi-million pound refurbishment to make the building more attractive and increase the number of people through its doors.

But author John Coutts, of Ealing Park Gardens, Ealing, has called the plans "cultural vandalism".

He said: "My family and I have used the library for more than ten years. Under these proposals around 50,000 books will be lost at a conservative estimate.

"The plans clearly show that more than a mile of shelving will be stripped out of Ealing Library. The council has known about this for months so why wasn't it mentioned during the official consultation?"

"The public are not aware that the redevelopment will mean almost half the library's books will vanish from the shelves," he continued.

Currently there is around 3,600m of shelving for books in the library but architechtural drawings show that will be cut to 1,900m.

Shelf height is also being cut meaning even more books will be taken from the library floor.

Mr Coutts said: "They say they need to replenish stock, but they are just getting rid of books that don't get taken out all the time. But just because a book is old doesn't mean it is irrelevant.

"You have to update collections but, in my area of study especially, sometimes you want to track how practises and approaches have changed over the last 50 years, for example. It helps to have a mix."

But head of library services at Ealing Council Mark Bryant said they had "never made a secret" of the plans. He said: "We have never tried to hide the fact, but there is a lot of material here that is not necessarily of value.

"We are just being realistic. We have got to try to make the place as welcoming to as many people as possible."

He continued: "We are not "dumbing down", it is just about having a service that people will want to use. We will increase the quality of the library.

"Works of real value will be represented in the collection but we can't have everything. There has to be a rigorous process. If a book is no longer contributing anything to the collection you won't replace it. But that is only an example of professional librarianship. This is not a big issue."

Mr Coutts' current book, about architechture, is published by Blackwells. He said: "This looks like cultural vandalism. It's shocking that the library service is thinking about dumping books on this scale without telling anybody." He added he was not opposed to improving the library, but people should be aware of the "full picture".

"There is a mantra of relevance' nowadays," he said. "Anything that is seen as difficult is considered elitist.

"Saying the only way to attract people to a library is to offer simple, easy things, is very patronising.

"Encouraging more people to use the library is vital but I don't think getting rid of thousands of books is really going to achieve that."

The council says many of the books will be kept underground in storage, which can be accessed easily. But Mr Coutts said: "You want to be able to browse in a library. Quite often you don't even know what book you want when in a library but If the books are just dumped in a closed access storage area then you can't."

But Mr Bryant said: "The books don't sell themselves. We want to open the place up. It is very claustrophopic and intimidating to non-regular library users. I want to attract more visitors in, but certainly not to the detriment of other library users."

And now it has been revealed that the planned "rolling stack" which was going to store a large number of the books has been scrapped because a structural engineer's report said it was too heavy.

"That means even more of the books will be got rid of now as there will be even less space to store them, " said Mr Coutts.

However Mr Bryant said the plans had not been finalised. He said: "While this is disappointing, the alternative shelving options we are looking at will still provide adequate space to store enough books to meet the needs of our library users."

Under the current plans there would be a coffee shop in the library, a rennovated children's section and more internet access PCs.

Anybody worried about the plans to get rid of books, or who wants to have a say in how Ealing library could be improved, should write to: Mark Bryant, Head of Libraries, Information and Learning, Central Library Consultation, 4th Floor, NW Perceval House, 1416 Uxbridge Road, Ealing W5 2HL. Alternatively, comments can be e-mailed to libinfo@ealing.gov.uk.