MORE THAN $80,000 worth of items are missing from Riverina libraries, but a proposal to scrap overdue fees could see change.
The 20 Riverina Regional Library branches, such as Wagga, are likely to join the national trend of ditching overdue library fines from July 1, 2020.
It is hoped that this recommendation, put forward by the RRL Advisory Committee, would lift barriers and give community members greater access to library services.
Dallas Tout, president of the NSW Public Libraries Association, said libraries are the "heart and souls" of communities, particularly Wagga.
"The report is still to be signed off by the executive council, but from July all overdue library fines in all libraries across the Riverina will be removed," he said.
"More importantly, it lifts that barrier stopping those marginalised people from being able to access the library, because they might feel embarrassed.
"It's reactivating members who thought they couldn't attend; it's becoming a trend because they're finding it counter productive."
There are 2613 long overdue Wagga items, equating to $26,130 owed to the library. However, the value of these items are worth a total of $83,490.
A successful trial at the City of Sydney libraries, between 2016 and 2017, saw overdue fines being shelved until 2021 after close to 68,000 library resources were returned.
This equated to more than triple the amount of overdue items returned in the 12 months prior.
Wagga library visitor Dylan Trevaskis said abolishing the fees would likely encourage more people to come and use the resources.
RRL executive director Robert Knight said the community benefit would far outweigh any loss of overdue fines revenue.
"There is evidence that the guilt or embarrassment associated with having unpaid overdue fines may become a barrier for members' attendance at libraries," he said.
"[Members could miss out on] the many other services that they provide, such as attending children's storytime and Tech Savvy Seniors classes.
The Food for Fines initiative, between November 25 to December 24, will give residents the opportunity to ditch their overdue library fines in exchange for a donation of non-perishable food items for those doing it tough.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.