Library theft increases at Old Dominion University
The number of missing books at Perry Library continues to increase dramatically. According to the list of missing books provided by Stuart Frazer, head of access services, the number has gone up from 444 missing books to 489 in just two months.
“In general, it’s my understanding that library theft, especially for rare and valuable items, has increased over the last few years primarily because of the Internet book trade,” said Acquisitions & Preservation Services Librarian Robert Tench. “For example, people that know books well are willing to pay a set replacement cost like ours [$80.00] so that they can sell the book on the Internet for a lot more money [upwards of $500.00 to $1000.00 per item].”
Tench also added, “When the learning commons construction was going on in 2010/2011, it was very difficult for our staff to monitor the library’s security systems. The consensus among staff is that more things were stolen during that time just because security was not what it should have been because of the construction.”
According to the list of missing books provided by Frazer,159 of the 489 lost books belonged to the third floor of the library and the 330 remaining belonged to the fourth. . “On the fourth floor there are nursing books, engineering books, mathematics books and medical books,” said Sharon Kidd, scheduling and patron services assistant. “I think that’s why more books disappear on the fourth floor. Most of them are textbooks that people can easily sell on eBay or Amazon.”
The circulation desk, now located on the second floor of the library, used to be at the entrance to the library. “We used to be downstairs right by the entrance,” said Kidd, “one time the alarm went off and we stopped the guy to ask him to check the books out he had. He dropped them and ran away. When we picked them up, all the books had the barcodes ripped off or scratched.”
Recounting her experiences with the disappearance of books over her 12 years as a librarian, Kidd said, “One time, a couple books were sent to us from the West Coast three years after their disappearance. The person who sent the books had found them in a yard sale and they all had an ODU tag on them so he or she decided to turn them back. I still wonder how they got there.”
On a different occasion, a woman’s library account showed that she still had not returned 10 books she borrowed from the library. “When I talked to her she repeatedly denied it, saying that she had brought them back to the library. Six months later she showed up with them,” said Kidd. “Sometimes that happens. People think they have actually returned them but they haven’t. Sometimes we never see those books again.”
The disappearance of books is a problem that concerns both librarians and ODU students. “Hearing the sound of the alarm going off has become something normal. It happens almost everyday I’m here,” said freshman Isabel de Rojas. “It honestly seems to me like there is no point in spending money in library detectors when there is no checking system for once the alarm goes off. Those detectors, and the stolen books for the matter, are paid with my tuition and every ODU student’s.”
Freshman Gabby Salomon suggested the staff be more vigilant.
“Maybe they should have some type of training to look out for thieves. Also, make it clear that if you steal, there are serious consequences. Something has got to be done to stop this from happening.”
“With an increase of student awareness, the problem could be addressed more easily,” added Ms. De Rojas. “The library should encourage the reports of people sneaking in books into their backpacks.”
Kidd believes that with the improvement of technologies might come the end to the problem of book theft.
She said, “The use of e-books instead of hard copies would make it impossible for people to steal books. This might be the solution we’ve been looking for.”
By Marta Quero