RESIDENTS living in remote places could lose access to mobile libraries after Essex County Council announced a consultation is being launched into the future of the service.

Seven out of the nine mobile libraries have reached the end of their working lives, according to the council.

If the council was to replace them, each new vehicle would cost £60,000 a year to lease and run, making £420,000 in total.

Use of the mobile libraries is reported to have dropped by 50 per cent in 2010.

A total of 35 mobile library stops across Essex had no visitors at all, during a 12 week monitoring period from May 8 to July 29.

And the service is costing £7.95 per person per visit, prompting questions about its value for money.

On average five people visit per stop, however these are often those in greatest need who would struggle to get to library buildings.

Sue Barker, cabinet member for libraries, said: “We know how much people value their mobile library service.

"But we also know that in recent years, fewer and fewer people have been taking advantage of it.

“Combined with other factors, such as vehicles which are coming to the end of their working lives, we have reached a point where the right thing to do is look again at how we provide these services.

“This is why we are consulting with residents on how we create a mobile library service which is a better fit with people’s lives.

“We want a service which is available at a place and time which suits users; a service which is flexible enough to help volunteers set up a community library in a village hall, pub, sports club or shop.

"We want a service where volunteers deliver books directly to the door, and can stop to chat with the residents so that we contribute to ending social isolation, and a service which is able to respond to different local needs and settings.

“We don’t want a service which wastes money by having mobile library buses parked in locations at times when no one visits.”

The consultation began at 9am today and will last for seven weeks.

To have your say, visit the consultation here.