Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2-L Book Thief at OSU Moritz Law Library

The story about the 2-L law student at Ohio State who was stealing books from the campus library and selling them online, allegedly netting more than $10,000, has got me steaming. There are also links at Above the Law and local news outlets: Columbus Dispatch. As of late October, campus police had discovered 1,351 books listed online for sale by the individual, whose name has not been released because he has not (yet) been charged. The police were alerted by a Brazilian lawyer who bought one of the books from "Orion Bookstore" through Amazon.com, and wondered about a library stamp which had been marked through with black marker. She contacted the university by e-mail. They checked and found the volume missing from the shelf. And things rolled on from there, apparently.

The police investigators found that some of the items listed for sale were still on the library shelves! This student was offering merchandise to be stolen on spec. The detectives arranged a sting operation. They marked a volume with invisible ink that would only show up under ultraviolet light. Then, they asked an out-of-state relative to order the text from Orion Bookstore. They set up a hidden camera, aimed at the shelves where the book was shelved, and monitored the area. Soon, they had on tape the individual they think to be the student entrepreneur removing the requested book. And in a few days, the requested book arrived by mail at the relative's address, with the ultra-violet-sensitive mark.

The Columbus Dispatch article mentions "court documents," and yet all the reports agree that the name is not released because the student has not been charged. I suppose that the student has been arraigned before a grand jury, since the amount mentioned in all the reports, $10,000, easily moves the theft into felony range.

I don't know about your library, but I have a budget line for "lost and stolen" items. The line is used up every single year. Some years, we exceed the budget by a shocking amount. There was a year when we suspected one of our reserve students of being a major book thief. I wanted to do a sting with a hidden camera, but my associates really just wanted to get the year over and the student graduated. I allowed myself to be overruled. But I still think it was the wrong thing to do. That money is tuition dollars that the individual stole from his fellow students, damn it. Why should he be specially entitled to either steal for himself, or as my colleagues suspected in our case, for his friends? They thought he might be handing out the copies of required textbooks and study aids to pals just as the library was closing each night, and allowing them to walk out with their new personal copy.

That is just so wrong.

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