Materials’ mutilation, theft threaten university libraries

By Katrina Kelly

Theft and mutilation of library materials are “the two big enemies” faced by the University Libraries, Library Director Ted Welch said.

In 1987, mutilation of library journals resulted in the replacement of 10,000 pages.

Welch estimated three to four percent of the library materials are damaged, lost or stolen each year. “This is not an alarming amount, but it is large considering the volume of material in the library,” he said.

Mutilation of journals, usually in the form of removed pages, causes a problem because of the cost involved in obtaining another copy of the defaced work, Welch said.

Of the 9,000 journals available in the Founders Memorial Library, 500 of them have “mild to serious mutilation,” he said.

“Students usually think that the library is so big they will never get caught or the library can afford to lose a few pages. We all pay for it,” Welch said.

The 10,000 lost pages are usually replaced with photocopied pages, and the cost of replacing these pages comes out of the book budget, Elizabeth Titus, the library’s assistant director of public services, said.

Welch said missing pages are usually reported by students or faculty who are looking for the missing article. Journals which the library receives in large volume and those used most often by undergraduates, are the ones most often reported damaged, such as Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report, Titus said.

“Mutilation is hard to measure because we don’t know when the damage occurred, only when it was reported,” Titus said. She said anyone finding a damaged journal should bring it to the information desk. “This assures it (the missing pages) will be replaced,” she said.

The theft and loss of entire books is another problem in NIU libraries, Welch said.

“There is a clear, constant pattern of theft,” Titus said. Students caught stealing library materials are dealt with through the student judicial system.

The security system, installed ten years ago, has helped curb this problem, Welch said. Sensitive strips placed in books will set off the system’s alarm if they are not de-sensitized by a machine located under the circulation desk.

NIU’s other libraries do not have such a large amount of theft and mutilation because of students’ restricted access to them. “They are mainly open to graduate students and faculty,” Welch said.