UP to 10 Hampshire libraries face axe and dozens of jobs could be lost as county bosses try to balance the books.

The number of libraries across the county could drop from 48 to 38 and the remaining ones could see a 15% reduction in their opening hours as Hampshire County Council is aiming to save £1.76m by 2021.

County bosses said there is still a possibility for all 48 council-run libraries to remain open but that would mean that they will all have their opening hours reduced by 25%.

The county council said the impact on staff would also depend on the number of closures, but between 40 to 50 jobs could be at risk.

Documents released by the county council today as part of a ten-week public consultation revealed that the libraries at risk of closure are the ones in Blackfield and Lyndhurst in the New Forest, Fair Oak Library in Fair Oak, Chineham and South Ham libraries in Basingstoke, Elson library in Gosport, Emsworth library in Havant, Horndean in East Hampshire,Lee-on-the-Solent library in Gosport and Odiham library in Hart.

Additionally, Kingsclere Community Library, Lowford Community Library, Milford-on-Sea Community Library and North Baddesley Community Library could be turned into independent community-managed libraries, meaning they will no longer be supported by the county council and will have to be run entirely by volunteers.

The move would save £49,000.

But the authority warned that "if the community does not wish to transition to a new delivery model then it is possible that these libraries may close".

The proposals revealed that there could also be an increase in the income generated through room hire and leases within council-run libraries by creating business hubs in one or more libraries and enabling meeting rooms to be hired outside normal opening hours.

Current fees and charges for services such as printing and photocopying would also be reviewed and increased "where appropriate" in order to cover costs.

The county council said it remains "absolutely committed to providing a high-quality library service".

Cllr Keith House, opposition leader at the county council, said libraries can be saved.

He added: "I'm really disappointed that the county council is looking at closing a quarter of our libraries. They have known they have a budget problem for a long time and have had plenty of opportunities to find community led proposals that would keep libraries open so what they should be doing instead of threatening of closing a quarter of our libraries is working out how they can get them run by volunteers with some degree of county council support."

Cllr Sean Woodward, executive member for recreation and heritage at the county council, said austerity and a change in people's habits have led to these proposals.

According to the county council the borrowing of digital eBooks and eAudio from 2016 to 2019 has increased by 62% while the borrowing of print books has decreased by 25%.

Cllr Woodward said 38 libraries is what is needed to provide a "comprehensive and efficient" library service in Hampshire.

"If the government were making no reduction in terms of public funding to councils then we wouldn't have to make decisions that are as difficult as those that we have to make. We would be reviewing the service anyway but we probably wouldn't be looking at the possibility of closing ten libraries," he added.

Residents have also the possibility to suggest new options as part of the public consultation that will close on March 18.

A final decision on the proposal is expected to be made in summer 2020 followed by a further consultation on opening hours. Changes would be implemented in autumn 2020.