Libraries push for anti-theft devices

System in Westminster sought for other branches

`We had a serious problem'

January 23, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

When an inventory at Carroll County's busiest library last year showed more than $23,000 in missing items, the director of the five-branch system ordered theft-deterrent equipment.

In the past six months, the equipment has worked so well at the Westminster branch that she would like to install similar devices throughout the system.

"We had 1,500 items gone missing, and that was just at Westminster," said Linda Mielke, the county's library director. "I knew we had a serious problem." The stolen items included books, CDs, DVDs, videotapes and other materials, she said. At her urging, the county installed a $27,000 theft-deterrent system in Westminster six months ago. Metallic strips attached to library material must be removed at the checkout desk, or they will trip an alarm as patrons exit.

The system has been so successful in cutting down on thefts that Mielke would like to use it at the Mount Airy, Taneytown, Eldersburg and North Carroll branches.

"I am not naive enough to think there is not theft in our other branches," she said. "The best deterrent is to have this system installed. If we have these items on for a year, we can show they are cost-effective."

Last week, the equipment at Westminster prevented the theft of six CDs that a patron had stashed in a backpack. "We retrieved the materials and called the police," said Dee Krasnansky, adult services supervisor.

Citing budget constraints, the county commissioners have denied Mielke's requests for more equipment, but she plans to keep asking.

She also would like to further increase security at the branch on Westminster's Main Street.

"We need people to know that we are watching. These items are really stolen from everybody in the county," Mielke said. "We make it easy for people to check items out, renew online, and the late fines are limited. The idea is to bring items back."

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