Books Magically Disappear; Libraries say books on occult stolen most, followed by SAT prep materials
They sometimes disappear like magic, which seems fitting. Books on the occult arts can dematerialize right off the shelves of the Three Creeks Community Library.
Caryn Sipos, librarian of the newest branch in the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, said the staff sometimes refers to that section of the stacks as the library’s black hole. When they put a book there, they don’t know if they’ll ever see it again.
While it might be mysterious, it’s not unusual, according to the American Library Association. The group conducted an informal survey a few years ago, asking its members about their most-stolen books.
According to Larra Clark, ALA press officer, the titles most likely to go AWOL (absent without librarian) are books about dreams, witchcraft, astrology and the occult.
Titles on the shelf include “Charms Spells & Formulas,” “Basic Magick” and “Modern Magick” which might have the uninitiated wondering about the relationship between creative spells and creative spelling.
Test-preparation books also can get sucked into the black hole, Sipos said.
There is an additional issue with things like SAT study guides, Sipos said. Not only is there a big call for those test-prep books, but the exams are offered at specific times during the year and demand for the books occurs all at once.
Again, the local findings are supported by the ALA’s national survey. Some of the ALA librarians also nominated car-repair guides and books about sex. They share a common characteristic, according to one unnamed librarian who was quoted on an ALA-sponsored Web site, library journal.com.
“They all require extensive practice at home, and it takes longer than the four-week checkout period to get good at it,” the librarian said.
Fort Vancouver library officials estimate that about 4,500 books will be pegged as “missing” in 2003: the staff can’t find them, but they’re not checked out to patrons, either.
(Library users also will report about 38,000 lost books in 2003 about 1.5 percent of the district’s total circulation; about half of them will eventually be returned. The library doesn’t charge fines for overdue books, and more than 5 percent are returned two weeks or later after their due date.)
Some people have theorized that self-appointed guardians of public morality are pilfering “objectionable” books so nobody will have a chance to check them out.
But that theory sure doesn’t fit a couple of other categories of the mysteriously missing. Local library administrators don’t have districtwide statistics on categories of missing books, but anecdotal information indicates another type of material often is stolen: books about religion, particularly the Bible.
At least the information is going to the people who need it the most.
And the other category is a variation on the test-preparation book. But if someone slips this book under his coat and walks out, you might wonder about his qualifications for the job he’s trying to get. It’s the book for people preparing to take the police exam.