The theft of books from a Quad Cities library uncovered this week will lead to felony theft charges against a Bettendorf woman. But one librarian says all of Iowa’s libraries struggle with the problem of loss and theft. She says it’s a problem in retail establishments, too, that people want things and sometimes don’t want to comply with requirements to pay for them, or return what they’ve checked out. Susan Craig is director of the Iowa City public library, which gets about 600-thousand visits a year from patrons and readers, and owns about a quarter-million books, periodicals, sound and video recordings. She says reasons for making them disappear can vary. Some people who don’t approve of materials may hide them, moving them to the wrong place on a shelf so nobody else can find them, but some just want to own the items. And some steal tapes or disks to resell for cash, she adds. The librarian says borrowers who’ve kept a book checked out too long don’t have to worry about being prosecuted as a thief. The Iowa City library checks out one-point-three Million items a year, and in only two-percent of cases do they even get an overdue notice, let alone get a visit from police. In 1990 Stephen Blumberg was arrested after investigators found antique books at his Ottumwa home worth as much as 20-million dollars, stolen from libraries all over the country. Craig says public libraries were seldom his targets, as they don’t have specialty books with such high value. But Craig says theft costs libraries, and taxpayers, money.In a case last year, a person who liked Sherlock Holmes tried to take “most everything” in the library about the fictional detective. Craig says librarians did some detective work of their own — and when they found who’d taken books, movies and audiotapes, charges were filed in that case. In this week’s case, police put the value at 14-hundred dollars of the volumes, mostly cookbooks, swiped from the Bettendorf library. Other books were traced to libraries in Rock Island and Moline, Illinois.
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