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Losses may make it harder to become a borrower

27 July 2004

Chch library book losses may make it harder to become a borrower

Christchurch City Libraries may have to demand more proof of identity from people applying to become borrowers after its staff uncovered an apparently well organised theft of books.

Police have been investigating the theft of about 650 items from the City Council’s libraries network. Targeted were New Zealand books and libraries staff believe the people responsible used falsified identification documents to obtain library cards.

When libraries staff identified a trend in overdue books, decisions were taken to ensure no more books could be removed and the Police was asked to investigate. Second-hand book sellers and auction houses were asked to keep an eye out for missing titles.

“Libraries are community assets,” says Sue Sutherland, the Christchurch City Libraries manager. “Our reason for being is to provide the people of Christchurch with access to information.

“One of our key values is `access and opportunity for all’,” she says. “If libraries have to start operating like Fort Knox it’ll be a sad day, but as a result of this experience, we’ll have to look again at the balance between ease of use and security.”

At present it is free to become a library member. Applicants need a form of identification which displays their name and signature and another means of proving where they live, such as a recent power bill or bank statement.
Copies of all the books taken by the thieves are available in the Central Library’s New Zealand section, which does not lend its stock, Ms Sutherland says.

Christchurch City Council’s libraries system comprises a large central library, a network of 12 suburban libraries and a mobile library. In a year the network issues more than 5.5 million items and responds to more than 800,000 requests for information. More than 250,000 people (80 per cent of the city’s population) are members. They make more than 3.4m visits to their libraries each year. In the current year, a little less than $4m is budgeted for renewal and replacement of the $8.3m worth of stock and materials. The Christchurch City Libraries network’s services this year are budgeted to cost $21.8m.

ENDS

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