THE man in charge of Barnet's libraries says a review into their future is not about closing buildings.

Councillor Robert Rams, the cabinet member for customer access, said the newly launched consultation is about “providing better services for less money”.

Currently the service has 186,000 members and is the second most used in London, with 16 branch libraries, mobile and home library services.

The average cost of each visitor is about £2.38, below the £3.50 London average.

In the report, due to go before Barnet Council's cabinet tonight, officers suggest “bold options” for the future of the service.

It says: “This review will also consider the overall reduction of the number sites [sic] we operate. It will consider the longer-term technology and infrastructure requirements of the service and set direction.”

It continues: “It is acknowledged that the review could recommend radical outcomes- including: potential reductions in the asset base, and new operating model; and to give options to model reduction of service points and a modernised service to meet current and changing needs.”

Last week the Times Series revealed libraries could be sold off and rented back by the council as part of an estate management plan designed to reduce costs.

However, Cllr Rams told the Times Series: “It's actually about the service, not about buildings. Nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out.

“It's about what services our residents want and there are concerns our libraries will not be able to provide the best services in these tight economic conditions.

“This is about people who do and don't use the services, to find out what they want. It's about taking these services forward and providing better services for less money.”

Cllr Rams said the council would be “consulting like you've never seen before” in order to get residents' views on what services should be provided at libraries.

He added: “The Sure Start children's centres are a good example of the sort of services people want. We're getting them into the most deprived parts of the borough, more than 3,000 people are already signed up.

“Library services have changed over recent times, only 53 per cent of people who come to libraries actually borrow books.

“We can look at the changing way people borrow films. Maybe people could order books online and pick them up at their local supermarket. These are things to look at in the future.

“I imagine at the end there will be more places for people to go to get books out. I could see more of these pop up libraries around the borough.”

He said he had “no idea” how much the budget for the service would be squeezed by, but admitted it would probably be around 25-30 per cent.

Reference services are also being moved online, which can be accessed 24-hours-a-day, with Cllr Rams citing the success of the E-books scheme which launched in Barnet earlier this year.