Late with your library book? Not a problem!

PORTSMOUTH could be the first city in the country to abolish library fines for late books.

Book-borrowers would not be charged for missing a return deadline unless they decided to keep the book indefinitely.

The plans form part of a radical shake-up of the library system in a bid to get more people through the doors.

Lindy Elliott, acting library services manager, said: 'We want to increase the number of people engaging with our service by removing all barriers and fines can be a barrier.

'Obviously we wouldn't give people books for free – we would invoice them at a certain point for the cost of the book if it was not returned.

'But it would stop people being concerned if a book was a few days late.'

The number of visitors to Portsmouth libraries has plummeted from 1.4m in 1999 to around 840,000 last year, sparking concern over the future of libraries.

Portsmouth City Council has also agreed not to cut any more money from the annual book-buying budget to improve collections.

Other new measures include self-issue books, having books available to borrow from museums and letting people log themselves on to computer stations.

Culture chiefs are looking at the location of all city libraries to see if they could be moved to busier streets.

This could include shifting the Elm Grove library to Palmerston Road and Carnegie Library into City Girls school.

Stephen Baily, head of culture at the city council, said: 'Some libraries are no longer where a lot of people pass by, and perhaps it would be better to have them in the shopping streets and busier areas.