Official logs show that book thieves permanently checked out more than 70,000 books from the Brooklyn Public Library in 2012. Graphic novels, GED preparation guides, nursing study guides and professional exam prep books were the most commonly stolen types of books.
A librarian said that she was all too familiar with the vexing stolen book phenomenon.
Library workers pointed to cutbacks for the increasing theft numbers, which spiked seriously from 2011, when approximately 60,000 books were never turned back in.
At the Brooklyn Heights branch, the staff has been cut, mostly because of budget cuts. Since the staff can’t watch as much, there are more thefts. When visitors have the ability to steal library books without repercussions, there is an increasing number of thefts.
A librarian said that they have systems set up to incentivize people to be more responsible and return their books, but that people are still taking advantage of the system. It’s an unfortunate reality, according to a library spokesperson.
Even though there have been a lot of thefts, officials at the library have kept the shelves stocked with fresh books and materials. The library purchased almost 420,000 print books and over 18,000 e-books in 2012 alone. The shelves are full and ready for library patrons to peruse.
The catalogue, as a whole, tends to shrink, though.
There were about four million books and other materials in 2009, but that amount went down to a little over three million in 2012, in large part due to the thefts, the official records clearly show.
It makes the wait a little bit longer for the top books, said one library patron.
The 2013 numbers are not yet available.
It seems that a lot of libraries are turning into free bookstores for many people. With the top titles raided, there ought to be a better system for keeping track of the books. The new all-digital libraries are one great solution. If there are no tangible books to steal, then patrons won’t be able to steal them.
Some book thieves are even more brazen and professional about their theft. Instead of just checking out books and never returning them, they go to great lengths to steal hundreds of books, only to sell them for pennies on the dollar to online book dealers. When caught, they face charges of trafficking in stolen property – and other charges as well.
Sometimes, small-scale amateur thieves will steal dozens of books and sell them to other local bookstores or book reseller stores. In many cases, the proprietors of the bookstores who buy the books share their suspicions with local police and the culprits are caught. In the case of robbers who sell to online bookstores, it’s a little bit harder to catch the thieves. Library theft is a growing problem, as the numbers from the Brooklyn library branch would suggest, and more needs to be done to stop it.