Libraries Still Losing Items From the Shelves

Ever found a library book in the computer system but been unable to locate it on the shelf? Perhaps the book has been stolen. The Oregonian has a reports that at the Multnomah County Library, about 12 perecent of materials are missing or unreturned.

The first inventory in nearly two decades estimates that 6 percent of the 1.7 million items thought to be on the shelves are missing. Another 6 percent were borrowed in the past four years but not returned.

“The numbers are definitely a cause for concern,” library director Molly Raphael said. The budget office started the loss study after a Portland police officer’s accidental discovery in 2004 of hundreds of stolen library DVDs and CDs — materials the library didn’t know were missing. The patron who lifted the items had discovered what library officials hoped would remain a secret: Staff annoyed by frequent false alarms had shut off the security gates years earlier.

[The library director] promised swift action, and the nine-month study she commissioned, which concluded in November, found that nearly 50,000 items, or about 3 percent of the collection, were declared missing the previous 18 months. Another 52,000 items probably are missing. And in the past four years, just fewer than 100,000 items were borrowed but never returned — though many might eventually be returned. And the library doesn’t know how many more items were written off, because it doesn’t track the numbers. After a book has been declared missing for at least a year or unreturned for three years, it is deleted from library records as if it never existed. The library also does not count the number of books tossed because of damage.

I’ll admit to my own share of sketchy library behavior. While I’ve never stolen a book, I have “lost” books before, usually obscure out-of-print books. I always pay whatever the replacement cost is, but a librarian friend to whom I confessed this sin gave me a tongue-lashing. “The library isn’t your own private book store for hard-to-find books,” she told me. Still, I’m happy to have that handy Latin grammar that nobody else had borrowed for over a decade. It’s my guess that the library probably would soon have just thrown it out.

[The Oregonian: Libraries still losing items from shelves]

1 Comment »

  1. nedroj said,

    January 25th, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    Multnomah County Library, that this article was attempting to be about, doesn’t just throw books out. If a book hasn’t been checked out in a while it gets weeded and sent to the used library bookstore which will sell it dirt cheap. So you don’t need to “lose” that book and pay the fine you can just get it at our book store. Or, you can renew up to 50 time each time for 3 weeks–so long as no one else puts it on hold.

    And the security system that was put in place that was turned off had a manufactured spacing limitation of 36″, which was not made known to the library. Not knowing this tech spaced it for the huge entryway of the main library and had to make it so sensitive it was going off due to false alarms almost constantly.

    Also the Oregonian is not a well respected newspaper.
    That’s all gotta go.

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