Angus Council could to become the first local authority in Scotland to scrap charges for overdue library books.
County libraries could scrap “old-fashioned” late fees in an attempt to woo back lapsed customers with armfuls of books they were too embarrassed to return.
Councillors will be asked to approve the termination of the traditional fees which generated around £18,000 a year for the council from November.
It is hoped the loss of revenue will be made up by an influx of new readers, at a time when other businesses that charge late fees are in decline and the emergence of websites like Amazon has made downloading books easier and more affordable.
A report by Alastair Wilson, the interim head of services to communities, states overdue fees can cost councils more in lost book stock than they accrue.
A temporary amnesty in March last year saw £5,250 of charges waived and 3,172 items with a total value of £24,400 returned.
Mr Wilson states: “With the demise of high street video shops and the rise of download-to-view services, the concept of late return fees is old-fashioned.
“Library fines promote to our communities a traditional view of the library as an out-of-date and unfriendly place.”
Library overdue charges in Angus were increased by 400% in April 2011 and set at 20p per day per item and 10p per day per item for under-16s and those in receipt of benefits.
While overdue fees would be scrapped, lost or long-term missing book fees would remain, with a flat charge of £8.50 to cover administration. All overdue charges outstanding at the time of implementation would be cancelled.
Mr Wilson acknowledged there is a risk that the incidence of late returns will increase, making stock unavailable for others but the new library management system will provide “new opportunities” to mitigate this risk, including email reminders before books become overdue.
The incidence of late returns would be monitored and action to discourage late returns would be explored and implemented if required.