COLCHESTER Library has seen its number of books on offer slashed by nearly 20,000 in the past four years.

Data released by Essex County Council shows between 2016/17 and February 2020 Colchester library’s book stock went from 111,494 to 92,190 .

It equates to a reduction of 19,304 books.

Last year, Essex County Council backtracked on its plan to close 25 of the county’s libraries after a fierce backlash from campaigners.

The authority instead pledged not to close any libraries for five years and to pump £3 million of investment into the service.

It still hopes to set up 19 community-run libraries.

Essex County Council will discuss the libraries service at a meeting later this month.

The agenda for the Place Services and Economic Growth Policy and Scrutiny sets out how book stock levels for libraries across the area have changed in the past four years.

In the same time period 40,575 books were ‘deleted’ from the library in Colchester and there were 21,186 new additions.

County Hall says it removes books if they are damaged or unpopular.

However, campaign group Save Our Libraries Essex believes any drop in library use has been down to cuts in opening hours and book stock.

A spokesman for the council said: “Colchester Library has over 92,000 books in stock and library card holders know they can request to order in any book not held by the library.

“We have also bought nearly 13,500 ebooks since 2017.

“Book stock is updated regularly in response to demand, to reflect the diversity of our community and to ensure we have an attractive range of books for children and adults.”

He added: “We remove books that aren’t being borrowed or are too damaged to lend and add new titles based on what we know of readers’ interests.

“We have also replaced some reference books with alternative, digital resources.”