READERS in parts of the county will be able to access books as easily as "getting cash from a cash machine" after a new £25,000 'out-of-hours' service was launched.

Libraries in Summertown and Eynsham have been chosen for a trial scheme, that if successful, could be rolled out across the county's 43 libraries.

Residents in Summertown can now use an individual passcode to use the library up until 11.30pm seven days a week and Eynsham will follow next month.

Friends of the Summertown Library chairman Marcus Ferrar said it was great news for a community that fought to save its beloved library just five years ago.

He said: "The people of Summertown love their library, we showed that by fighting to save it from the threat of closure five years ago.

"People in the area have also been donating money for an upgrade ever since and we are about three-quarters of the way to our £80,000 target.

He added: "Residents have been pushing for an extension to opening hours for a while, and this is great news.

"It means that everyone, particularly families with young children can go there in the evenings and on Sundays, whereas before it was shut."

Oxfordshire County Council, behind the scheme, said the two libraries had been selected because they were "very well supported at the heart of thriving communities".

The extended hours will also provide study space and access to online resources in the evenings.

Earlier this year the county's mobile fleet of seven library vans was cut and money from its book buying fund will be axed over the next few years in a bid to save £1m.

A review into the 43 libraries and staffing levels was expected to take place this year but then cancelled meaning no changes to the system.

But Mr Ferrar said he had been given "no indication" that the self-service scheme would eventually replace staff who were "much appreciated" by the community and the county council also said it was not in response to cuts.

The council's cabinet member for cultural services, Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, said: "This is hugely exciting and has the potential to be a real 'game-changer' in terms of opening up access to local libraries and encouraging more people through the doors.

"It's a little bit like swiping your card at the entrance to your bank after it has closed to use the cash machines.

"We are really keen to see how people take to the idea at these two libraries so we can assess the scope for rolling it out more widely across the county - that's ultimately what we would like to do."

The library, in South Parade, which closes at various times between 5pm and 6.30pm throughout the week, will remain open for swipe card holders until 11.30pm.

Opening hours for the Eynsham scheme will be announced next month ahead of its launch.