Nefarious library behaviour

Yesterday, a rather blatant attempt to steal some library books was made.  We did not catch the perpetrator in the act of leaving with their attempted contraband, but we found the evidence of their failed attempt.  Two brand new books, never borrowed, were discovered in  the short loan collection, hurriedly abandoned.  Their spine labels had been scratched off along with some other identifying stickers, and the first page (with barcode attached) had been removed, probably with a razor blade.  Other identifying marks remained, including 7-day loan stickers on the front cover, and our stamps on strategic pages within.  We have long suspected when we find books with their barcodes missing that people think that the barcode is what sets the security gates off if you attempt to leave with a book you haven’t actually borrowed.  It isn’t.  In this case, they had obviously checked to make sure there was nothing in/behind the spine label either, but they had failed to find the actual trigger for the security system, which is rather more cunningly hidden.  The person in question will have set the alarm off on the way out and probably made some sort of excuse to the security guard (“oh yes, I forgot I had some books in my bag – I’ll just go and issue them to myself”), then dumped the books in frustration.

We can fix the damage fairly easily.  Spine labels can be replaced, new barcodes can be put in, and nasty sticky residue from other bits that have been peeled off can be removed.  But it is still extremely frustrating that some people seem to think that vandalising and/or stealing our stock is acceptable.  Even if we ignore the library’s point of view, it denies other students the opportunity to read the book, and potentially takes away money from the library budget which could have been used for new stock.  Incidents like this certainly put my laptop rage into proper library perspective.

This is not the first incident of its kind, of course.  We often find books with missing barcodes, for example, and surmise that this is the reason.  However, it is the most obvious attempt made recently.  Some years ago, we had a rash of people stealing journal articles by ripping the pages out, or sometimes removing them carefully with a razor blade.  One notable incident occurred when a student removed some pages from a journal and proceeded to stick one of them into her essay, complete with “Do not remove from the library” stamp.  Quite why she couldn’t have typed the section up and at least pretended it was her work, I do not know.  She got into trouble for both vandalism and plagiarism.  When thieves and vandals can be positively identified, the university takes a hard line on them.  And quite right too.  Attacking the books is surely the worst of library crimes, far above negligence, rudeness or loudness.


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  1. Bad students! However, I think rudeness is still worse than damaging books – books don’t have feelings. (Well, at least not as far as I know.)

  2. Am now TERRIFICALLY CROSS on your poor books’ behalf. Mutilated! Gah!

    We found a student tearing pages out of a journal once. When we rushed up shouting ‘stop!’, he looked astonished. He wasn’t stealing them, you see. He was tearing them out because it was easier to photocopy them that way.

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