Library mulls tighter security in light of book thefts

The theft of more than 1,350 children’s picture books from the Port Orchard Library has prompted the Kitsap Regional Library (KRL) system to review its security procedures.

In several of KRL’s branch libraries, staff working at the circulation desks do not have a clear view of the entire facility.

In addition, the implementation of self-checkout for library materials means that more than one-third of KRL’s patrons do not necessarily stop at the circulation desk when they leave the branch libraries with books.

According to Jeff Brody, director of community relations, KRL is considering the installation of mirrors and door alarms where library users can leave a building without walking past the staff at the circulation desk.

“KRL has checked with other libraries in an attempt to determine how our record of loss may compare to other systems,” said Brody. “KRL has actually suffered less theft than other library systems in the past, but there is concern that the growing market for used books online could be an incentive for more theft in the future.”

In the longer term, KRL plans to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of installing a radio frequency tag system to protect its collection.

Radio frequency tags are used to identify each book, and books that are not properly checked out set off an alarm at the exit.

“The issue with this type of system is cost,” explained Brody. “Even though these systems have become less expensive in recent years, it still costs about 25 cents per tag.

“That would mean an initial expenditure of more than $125,000 for the tags,” he said, “plus additional funds for the equipment to read the tags at the circulation desks and for the alarms at the doors.”

Since library adds about 80,000 new items to its collection each year, “There would be an additional annual cost of about $20,000 for this kind of security system,” Brody said.

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