Wednesday, November 11, 2009

12 Book Thieves Hit Libraries for $140,000

College and community libraries in Maryland have lost $140,000 worth of textbooks to twelve thieves looking to make a quick buck by reselling the books to area college students.

WBAL-TV, Baltimore, has the story:
The investigation into the thefts began in July when University of Maryland, Baltimore County police discovered a large number of the books in a car. The barcodes were removed from many of them. UMBC police said they believe that more than $54,000 worth of books were stolen from the campus library.
Their cases were supposed to go to court in September, but a judge dismissed three of them, claiming that police didn't have probably cause to stop and search the car.

UMBC police then shared their information, and the book theft investigation continued in other areas until the indictments were announced Tuesday.
"Ironically, there were books on ethics and philosophy, but largely, the bulk of the books were in the nursing field and the sciences, like chemistry," said Mary Eilerman, HCC's Chief of College Security.

Charging documents showed that some of those who were charged are family members.
According to the story, these guys were checking out dozens of books at a time, near the 75-book limit that some of the libraries allow its patrons. Maybe it's me, but why should anyone be allowed to check out 75 books at a time? Are there really enough books in the library system to allow one person to walk away with 75 of them? We all know how slow some people are to return books - are they even allowed to renew 75 books for additional time?

I know there are librarians out there who see this kind of thing all the time. Please help me understand why any library would allow such a large number of books to walk out the door with one person. I don't get it.


  1. Wow, this is a new one on me. I've never heard of anything like this happening before but maybe I missed it? I can see a few books going missing here and there but for them to check out so many with the intent to sell? If only they would use that brainpower for good instead of evil!

  2. Apparently these ladies and their 8 friends aren't nearly as smart as they thought they were, Kathleen. I'm glad they got they need to pay the penalty.

  3. The 75 books wouldn't necessarily be walking out all at once. As an academic librarian, I wouldn't necessarily see anything unusual about someone having 75 books checked out - people check out lots of books at a time for projects, and grad students and professors in particular may need those books for a while. True, it might be considered unusual if all the books were on separate topics (or all textbooks, as is the case here), but librarians don't make a habit of examining the patterns in what individuals check out (or at least the ones at my library don't).

    As far as the thefts go, I'm glad they got caught. Things like this are the reason why many academic libraries don't tend to include textbooks in their collections. Well, the cost and the fact that most libraries couldn't possibly afford to buy enough textbooks for everyone in every class are also factors in the decision.

  4. I once asked a library worker at the main library I was visiting how many items someone could check out at once. It was fifty. I said "how could someone carry fifty books out of here at one time?!" She said (totally deadpan)"with a shopping cart." Makes me wonder if someone did that once.

  5. Thanks for the insights, Library Girl. What you say about the 75-book limit does make sense, but it still seems like overkill to me. Letting one patron control that many books, especially on a single topic, must mean that a lot of other folks with equally serious reasons to get at the books are simply shut out. Hard to explain...just bugs me, I guess.

  6. Jeane, I don't doubt it. Anyone coming to the library for 50 books has to be prepared...little red wagon, anyone?