Library Hit With Thefts

ST. MARYS —  St. Marys Community Public Library’s policy board met Wednesday to tackle the growing problem of thousands of dollars in deliberate theft of library materials for the purpose of Internet resale.

In the last five years, Library Director Sue Pittman said the library experienced approximately one big theft per year amounting to between $500 and $800 each. However the latest theft was by a man who opened accounts as three different patrons, stealing a total of $2,516 of library materials. The person acquired 58 items in July, and the library considered the items stolen in late September and early October. DVD packaging for 22 of the 58 items was found in the trash.

“That was a big steal, a big heist,” Board member Bill Angel said, who suggested a 50 item limit on the number of items a patron could check out.

The current limit is 100 items checked out, and 50 items on hold.

“The last (theft) was a definite pattern,” Pittman said. “That person was out to rip us off. They were things that could be easily sold on the Internet.”

She said other libraries have been hit harder by theft.

Pittman questioned whether to change policies for an entire community based on the actions of a few isolated people.

Homeschooling parents and teachers often check out more than 50 items at the same time, she pointed out. Librarian Beth Keuneke agreed, and added that librarians often already override the 100 item limit for teachers and homeschooling parents. The overrides, when repeated on a large number of items, can slow down the checkout process.

Board Member Linda Schloener noted she sometimes exceeded the 50 item limit when borrowing items for her children with her library card, making it easy for her to keep track of the children’s due dates instead of putting it on the children’s cards separately.

Several board members agreed that being good stewards of the public money meant enacting a change to curb theft.

Several other ideas about how to limit theft were discussed, including setting borrowing parameters based on age and installing security cameras, an issue that will be brought for further discussion at the library building committee meeting.

For the moment, however, the board amended the policy to reflect the 50 item limit, with the intention to re-evaluate the policy in a year.

While the 50 item limit would have only saved eight items from theft, Board Member Don Glaser said that a gradual approach made sense for patrons. If the library still experienced theft with a 50 item limit, patrons would be understanding of the change to 25 items, he said.

Angel agreed.

“Good clientele are going to understand,” he said.