Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stolen Books

I read a lot of graphic novels from libraries, and one thing that really frustrates me is when the next volume in a series I'm reading is unavailable because it's been stolen (or "missing", but let's be honest, it's probably been stolen). In these cases the library has actually ordered, catalogued, and shelved the book, but someone (or someones) have decided they want it forever. This is of particular issue with many comics due to their serial nature. How often is volume 4 of a series going to be checked out of volume 3 is missing? (Actually, based on the examples below the answer is still "all the time", but shhh.)

Today, I was in the Central Branch of the library and saw Wolverine and the X-Men Volume 2. I thought I'd read volume 1, but couldn't remember, but I grabbed it anyway. Just now I checked the Vancouver Public Library's (VPL) website to see if I could read the other volumes in the series. This is what I found.

Wolverine and the X-Men Volume 1: Six copies, all current have the status "Trace" (ie. "we can't find it.")

Wolverine and the X-Men Volume 2: Six copies, five have the status "Trace", the other is the one I borrowed.

Wolverine and the X-Men Volume 3: Six copies, all currently have the status "Trace".

Wolverine and the X-Men Volume 4: Six copies, three currently have the status "Trace", three are currently checked out.

Wolverine and the X-Men Alpha and Omega (a spin-off miniseries): Four copies, all currently have the status "Trace".

(More recent volumes of the series are not currently held by the VPL.)

So that's 28 separate items in total, and 24 of them are missing! Weren't RFID tags supposed to fix this problem? All of these items are less than two years old, and the longest the VPL has had any of them is just over 18 months. All volumes (except the most recent), have at least one hold request.

A librarian at Surrey Public Library said that true crime books were the most frequently stolen, while Terry Prachett used to brag that he was the author who had the most books stolen from libraries, but my incredibly biased anecdotal evidence seems to imply that the actually winners (losers?) are X-Men comics. I decided to do some research into what the most frequently stolen books in libraries were.

There are a number of articles about books stolen from bookshops (I liked this one), and it's interesting to see how much bookstore theft is motivated by people wanting to sell the books to second hand bookshops. In contrast, books stolen from libraries tend to be ones that people actually want to read (though how much reading someone does for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition I don't know...). Presumably this is because most used bookstores (hopefully) won't buy books that are clearly from libraries.

However, the references I found to books stolen from libraries didn't mention graphic novels, but to be honest I'm not that surprised. They're generally high cost items, that don't take that long to read, and frequently go out of print fairly quickly. Still, I just wish that whoever's stealing all those X-Men comics would stop so that I could read them. I mean, I generally don't want to _own_ the things, and the chances of me buying any of them are incredibly slim. That's why I want libraries to have them available!

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