IT is estimated that pensioner Edna Foulds has borrowed an amazing 20,800 books over the past 40 years from her local library.

However, an even more staggering fact is that the 85-year-old great-grandmother has only ever had to pay one fine.

But with an intake of ten a week, Mrs Foulds, from Redcar, east Cleveland, still struggles to name a favourite.

"I just love reading," she says, sitting next to a stack of novels waiting to be devoured and recorded in her black book, where she catalogues the tomes she has borrowed.

The number of books she has taken out must run into many more thousands, because she first joined a library as a child in Leeds, when she checked out Edgar Rice Burroughs' tale of Tarzan.

A member of Redcar Library, in Roseberry Square, since it opened on February 22, 1967, her status as the branch's longest- established and keenest borrower was rewarded this week.

She was given a place of honour at the opening of a new library following development work in the square and, naturally, she was allowed to borrow the first book.

She said: "I used to read Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, and I would read historical books but now I just read general fiction.

"As near as I can say, I would have been about ten years old when I joined a library in Leeds.

"My late husband was a policeman and he used to be very fond of sports, but I didn't like sports at all. I used to like to read and knit, so I would do both together. I cannot get to sleep until I have read for at least half an hour."

And in a world of computers, the internet and mobile phones, Mrs Foulds says she prefers to carry on with her more traditional pastime. She said: "I don't know anything about computers, but going back some years now, there was an electrical strike, and a computer needs electricity."

Mrs Foulds, who visits her library once a week to stock up, said: "If I do not go, the girls there think there is something wrong -I know all the staff there.

"I have never not been able to get to the library and I always have plenty to read.

"I do not have a favourite. I like reading Wilbur Smith, I read them a long time ago and am now re-reading them. I just love reading -it just takes you out of yourself."

Librarian Janice Bonner, who has worked at the old library for more than 18 years, said: "It is people like Edna that keep the library service going. It is really good to have regular readers like that. She is a champion."

Redcar and Cleveland borough councillor Sheelagh Clarke said: "We are thrilled that Edna still gets so much enjoyment out of reading and thought she deserved to have the first book.