Keen readers in Bexley are being reminded to return their library books after an investigation found thousands have been stolen or lost.

Libraries across the borough have been promoted by the council in recent years, with many such as Crayford seeing more people than ever using the services.

As popularity increases, however, an investigation has found the council is having to shell out hundreds of pounds replacing stolen, lost or missing books.

The Diary of A Wimpy Kid looks to be the most popular book in the borough, as titles from that series are the most stolen or unreturned item across every library.

More than 7,000 books have been taken from libraries and not returned in the last five years.

So far this year nearly double the number of books have gone missing than in 2017.

Figures show that 2,449 books have been stolen, lost or are long overdue, compared to 2017’s 1,335.

In 2014, just 1,147 books were lost from libraries.

After Diary of A Wimpy Kid, the DVSA driving handbook, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and ironically Where’s Wally are the next most commonly taken titles.

The council does not have a full cost of replacing titles, but said it is the taxpayer who foots the bill.

A spokesman for the council said: “It is really important that customers remember to return their books so someone else can enjoy them. Replacing books that have been lost or not been returned cost taxpayers money.

“The costs of replacing books can be up to £25 for hardback non-fiction titles. The Diary of the Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney for example costs us £6.99 a copy to replace.

“One of the most common reasons for books not to be returned is because they may be overdue. There are lots of ways to renew library books to stop them becoming overdue – in person, by telephone, online or using the Library App. Books can also be returned via any of our self-service kiosks.”

It’s understood that 2018’s figure could reduce as overdue books are returned.