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Library rebounding from book theft
It was recently my lamentable task to file a report with our Port Orchard Police Department regarding the theft of over 1,300 children’s picture books from the Port Orchard library’s shelves.
As a former children’s librarian, I felt particularly close to these books, many of which I read in story times and shared with my own sons over the past few years.
Our entire staff was devastated by this theft, not just for the library, but for the community of Port Orchard who was the true victim of this crime.
These titles were spirited away over the course of a two-month period.
Without knowing how library collections move, it is hard to understand how so many books could go missing. Our collection is constantly in flux and our branch circulation has greatly increased this year.
More than 50 percent of our picture book collection is checked out at any given time. Additionally, many families routinely check out 50 to 60 books at each visit, and teachers will often reach their 100-book limit when using this collection.
Because of these factors, it took several weeks to realize the severity of the problem.
When books are missing from our shelves, we assume they are properly checked out. Nearly all of the titles had been checked out within the last three months, allowing us to establish a definite time frame for the theft.
With the help of all staff and several volunteers, we conducted a complete inventory of our picture book collection to determine an exact number, as well as the names, of the titles stolen.
This story received far more media attention than we ever anticipated. Our entire library system has been heartened by the outpouring of support from our community, as well as from book retailers, authors and publishing houses.
Our KRL Foundation has received thousands of dollars in donations from all across the country to help restore our collection, and many patrons have brought in new copies of hardback books to replace those stolen titles.
We have instituted new security measures at our branch, and the Kitsap Regional Library as a system will adopt new security measures in the coming months.
We will continue to be vigilant in keeping watch over your library collection, while maintaining the importance of the public library as a place where you feel welcome and your privacy is protected.
Although this has been a very hard time for our branch staff, we have drawn a lot of strength from our community.
I want to express not only my own gratitude, but the gratitude of our entire library system, when I thank you for your support and kindness during this difficult time.
Kathleen Wilson is Port Orchard branch manager for the Kitsap Regional Library System.