I suppose in this day of user pays, charging for library books is inevitable.

And, as the spokesperson for Paper Plus, I suppose, too, I should be exhorting libraries to charge in the hope that it will encourage people to buy more books and start their own libraries.

Tauranga City Council is looking to charge adult members of the library 50c a book to offset the nearly $7 million it costs to run the library.

While 50c a week is unlikely to break the bank, I hate the idea of making it harder for people to have access to books.

When around 90 per cent of our prison population is not functionally literate, doesn't that tell you something about the importance of being able to read, write and communicate?

I accept that running libraries is a significant cost to ratepayers but given that libraries have become so much more than book distributors, couldn't libraries charge for added extras rather than books?

Auckland Central library has free internet access; meeting rooms are free for up to two hours; expert research assistance from librarians is also free - wouldn't it be better to charge for those facilities rather than charge to take out books?

Reading is one of the great joys in life and for many people, especially those on limited incomes, it's one of their few pleasures.

Fifty cents a book may not sound like much but it adds up when you're getting by on the smell of an oily rag.

There's no indication yet from other libraries that they will follow Tauranga's lead, but you can bet your latest bestseller that if a number-crunching pencil sharpener whose idea of a cracking read is the third edition of New Zealand Financial Accounting sees there's money to be made in charging for books, he'll be in like a robber's dog.