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Children’s books stolen from Port Orchard library

Kitsap Regional Library has reported that as many as 1,348 picture books for children have been stolen from the library collection at the Port Orchard branch over the past few months.

Branch library staff began to suspect that books were missing and a thorough review of the library’s collection inventory and checkout records confirmed late last week a theft had occurred.

Port Orchard Branch Manager Kathleen Wilson said the missing books represent nearly 20 percent of the branch library’s collection of children’s picture books.

In addition, the titles missing are among the best in the library’s collection, indicating that the person or persons who stole the books was doing so with knowledge about which books were most valuable.

Based on replacement cost, the library is estimating the value of the loss at about $22,900.

“Public libraries are all about free access to books and other kinds of information,” said KRL Director Jill Jean. “It hits home very hard when someone steals from the children of our community.

“These books are shared by thousands of children who learn to love books and reading from them,” she said. “This theft goes right to the heart of the family ritual of parents reading books to their children. We are very saddened by this violation of public trust and I’m sure some parents will be heartbroken that Curious George is no longer available on the shelf at the Port Orchard library.”

Library staff will be developing a plan to replace the books stolen from the Port Orchard branch, but it will take time to replace them because of limitations on the library’s collections budget, the cost of replacement and the time required to process that number of new books into the collection.

Because free access is a cornerstone of the public library, it is very difficult to assure security of the collection, Jean noted.

“Nothing like this has occurred before at KRL,” she said. “We haven’t allocated more money for security because it hasn’t been a problem. We may have to consider spending more on security when we review our budget for next year.”

Jean said library officials are discussing ways to secure the KRL collection better and KRL leadership also conducted a review to make sure materials have not been stolen from other branches.

Wilson has already implemented some changes at Port Orchard. Patrons will no longer be allowed to bring bags and backpacks into the children’s area of the branch.

Open baskets have been placed in the children’s area for patrons to use if they wish to carry a large number of books to the front for checkout. Signs will be posted to explain the new policy.

In the meantime, KRL is asking any member of the public who may have information about the theft of the books from the Port Orchard Branch to report what they know to the Port Orchard Police Department, (360) 876-1700.

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