FINES for returning library books late have been scrapped in Portsmouth.
The library service hopes the changes will lead to books that have gone missing being handed back in.
Lindy Elliott, library services manager, told the BBC ‘naughty books’ and ‘sexy’ books were the ones most likely to go missing.
She said: ‘The most popular books which go missing are student textbooks and some naughty books, some slightly sexy. And on a serious note, books on health issues.’
It comes as Portsmouth councillors today approved a three-year pilot scheme, making the city one of just two authorities in the UK where library-users no longer pay fines for returning books late. Charges for reserving items have also been dropped.
It is hoped more books will now be returned to libraries, reducing the number of replacement items needed.
If the trial period proves successful there will be scope to make it permanent.
Library services manager Ms Elliott, endorsed the project. She said: ‘This will allow us to open services to everyone and to have access to every book in the country.
‘To begin with we are looking at an amnesty so that people don’t feel penalised for bringing back late books.’
Linda Symes, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said: ‘I think the amnesty is really important because we don’t want people to feel stigmatised for returning a late book.
‘Everyone has forgotten to return a book before.’
A culture, leisure and sport meeting today in the Guildhall was told libraries will not lose out financially when the charges are abolished due to available funding that can match projected fine income.
In the last seven years, revenue from library fines in the city had declined from £28,000 a year to an anticipated £16,000. Income from reservations dropped from £6,424 to £3,951.
Portsmouth will be following in the footsteps of Trafford in Manchester, which became the first library service in the UK to bin all charges last month.
Lib Dem councillor, Steve Pitt, praised the scheme.
‘Anything which improves access for people to these services is great. I think it has a chance of great success,’ he said.
Without the charges Portsmouth City Council believes libraries will save time and money by not having to issue and follow up fines, while at the same time encouraging more people to use its services.
Councillors propose to subsidise the loss in finances from a variety of sources. Around £5,000 of this will come as a result of scrapping fines as people would be more likely to return overdue books, reducing need for replacements. Parking permits sold in the libraries will add £8,000 to the pot.