THE mobile library service operating in Bucks is set to be scaled down but the county council says it is looking at alternate ways to lend books to the public instead - which could see pub punters borrowing the latest LeCarre or Pratchett as they purchase a pint.

A cost-saving revision to mobile library schedules means the service will now run three vehicles instead of four, which will visit areas once a month instead of every fortnight.

Buckinghamshire County Council says most books are taken out on a four-week basis anyway, and the change would mean savings of £100k.

Now, with pressure on budgets still bearing down, the council is set to consult with the parish councils, community and residents' groups over new ideas to get the library service out to rural and isolated communities, through village hubs like pubs and shops.

Libraries Service Delivery Manager David Jones said: "For example, would communities prefer a more permanent supply of books at their local pub, say, instead of a mobile library visiting for 20 minutes once a month? This is the kind of question we want communities to help us explore."

Paul Rogerson, Treasurer of Lacey Green Community Shop, has suggested running a pilot 'library book exchange' scheme allowing people to reserve books from a list, then pick them up from the shop and return them later.

Mr Jones said any such ideas would take time to explore and implement, but Cllr Martin Phillips, cabinet member for community engagement said the ideas could add "vitality" to rural communities, praising the volunteers who were running the community libraries.

The council says while the creation of 13 community libraries has reduced costs by half a million pounds, the library service has saved another £300k through cutting back office duplication and improving efficiency across various areas.