When the library alarm buzzes, people tend to turn their heads to see what happen. Then most of the time, a patron who just walked through the security device looks baffled and pauses for seconds while the circulation desk staff tries to reach him and asks him not to proceed further steps. If caught trying to take materials out of the library without first checking them out, sometimes campus police begin an investigation.
“It could be just an accident, people forget and stuff books in their backpacks,” Christopher S. M. Wilkinson, Yuba College Chief of Police said, “but we did find students or visitors deliberately taking books.”
Police officers ask the suspect questions about what their motives were and make decisions based on the story. If it turns out to be truly an accident, then a warning is given, but if things are more complicated, the suspect receives a citation that will be forwarded to the Vice President of Yuba College and to the District Attorney in the Yuba County courthouse and which will be noted in student’s record.
“It is considered as criminal action,” Wilkinson said about library theft. He added, “It is a misdemeanor.” The California Penal Code states, “Every person who attempts to commit any crime, but fails, or is prevented or intercepted in its perpetration, shall be punished where no provision is made by law for the punishment of those attempts.” A person might have to pay fines or even serve 12 months or less behind the bars.
At the Yuba College library, attempted theft does not really create an intense problem. Dave Freiler, Yuba College Librarian, said that it happens maybe 6 to 10 times each semester. Freiler was positive that the rate is not going up each year.
Some students may attempt to steal a library book because they really need materials for their classes but are not able to check them out. Not being able to check out materials results from unpaid bills to the library or because particular materials are not allowed to be checked out, for example, those in reference section or periodical magazines
Interestingly, when it comes to magazines, the “most wanted” ones include Sports Illustrated, Road & Track and Motor Trend. The newer editions of these magazines are now kept at the circulation desk where patrons must ask for them. Older editions, which are bound already, can be found at the library shelves.
Yuba College library has a collection of 73, 271 materials. Materials are tagged in a certain way so patrons will not easily find out how to take it off. Freiler explained that people have tried to perform odd ways by tearing off the spine labels or the pocket inside the book cover because they think that might be their answer to get rid of any detecting device.
A special segment about this is written in California Education Code, section 19910, explicitly stating that anyone who “maliciously cuts, tears, defaces, breaks, or injures [materials]” is guilty of misdemeanor.
Library theft is a minor crime that does not really grab the attention of majority but it might result ranging from inconvenient to jeopardizing consequences, especially for students as it affects their academic and social life. Back to the simple old rule that our parents used to teach us when we were kids, which Wilkinson reiterated: “if it doesn’t belong to you, don’t take it.”