Books stolen from Mt. Lebanon Public Library

Published Aug 21, 2014 at 3:08 pm (Updated Aug 21, 2014 at 3:08 pm)

When Cynthia Richey, director of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, was notified recently by other library directors in the Pittsburgh area of a rash of stolen books from public and academic libraries, she conducted a quick check of recently acquired best sellers and reference books and found a few missing from the library at 16 Castle Shannon Boulevard.

“We’re still checking on the extent of the losses,” Richey said Aug. 20.

Tracking down the exact books that have been stolen is not an easy task.

“We noticed some of the books ordered were not checked out, but we found them to be gone,” Richey said. “And there were reference books that can not be checked out, and they are missing.”

She reported the loss to Mt. Lebanon police.

Mt. Lebanon police Deputy Chief Aaron Lauth said the suspected thefts were reported Aug. 13, and fall under a special section of the state crime codes that deals with the theft of library and museum materials.

Other libraries in the Pittsburgh area, although none in the South Hills with the exception of Mt. Lebanon, have also reported the theft of library material. Some of the stolen items have appeared for sale online.

Lauth said Mt. Lebanon police are cooperating with other police agencies in Allegheny County to determine if the thefts are related. Stealing library material is similar to a retail theft and the penalties are similar based on the defendant’s prior criminal record and to the value of the items stolen, Lauth said.

Christine McIntosh, director of the Bethel Park Public Library, said she has not noticed any missing books from the library at 5100 W. Library Ave., located in the same building as municipal and magisterial offices, and the police department.

Some of the more popular books being pilfered in other libraries are best sellers.

“The newer books are kept right in front of the information desk, so someone is always there,” McIntosh said.

Security gates are located at the exit doors and each book has a security strip that is desensitized at the time of checkout, then re-sensitized when the book is returned. An alarm sounds if the strip is not property desensitized.

McIntosh said the library staff is aware of the recently book thefts in other libraries and, luckily, “there have been no problems so far.”

Pier Lee, director of the Peters Township Public Library, 616 E. McMurray Road, said she contacted the circulation desk and was pleased to learn no books are missing. As with the other libraries, security is in place at the Peters Township library.

Helen Palascak, director of the Upper St. Clair Township Library, 1820 McLaughlin Run Road, declined to comment on whether any books have been stolen from the library recently, or if the library is taking any extra precautions to prevent theft.

As for the thefts at the Mt. Lebanon library, Richey called the actions “egregious.”

“It’s just awful,” Richey said of the book thefts. “I’m furious someone would do this to deprive the public free access. They have no sense of social responsibility. It’s just an affront.”

In her more than 40 years working in libraries, Richey said she has never encountered a similar incident.

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