Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporter Mitch Dudek reported in a story published today that a former Lisle Library District (LLD) janitor has been charged with stealing thousands of books and DVDs and selling them on Amazon.com (“Ex-janitor stole thousands of books, DVDs from library, sold them online, prosecutors charge”). In April, a librarian discovered a notebook with a handwritten list of hundreds of books and receipts for expensive books that had been sold at what Dudek described as “cut-rate prices on Amazon.com.”
Everyone surfing knows Amazon is an Internet-based company is a retailer that sells new and used books, movies, toys, etc. directly to customers. However, it is also a marketplace and go-between where bookshops and private individuals offer for sale new and used books, movies, toys, etc., and if a customer elects to buy something through Amazon rather from Amazon, the company will collect the sale price of the item and a standard shipping fee, then pass along those monies to the seller after deducting a fee. Amazon also makes money as a publisher and by renting space on its servers, but those are other stories…
The books for sale this second way range from serialized novels that sell for less than $1 to antiquarian books (normally the purview of antiquarian bookshops like O’Gara & Wilson in Hyde Park) that sell for hundreds of dollars. Sellers range from owners of brick-and-mortar shops that either lack their own Web sites or are trying to sell books (1) in their shops, (2) through their own Web sites, and (3) through Amazon; to people with home businesses; to collectors both buying and selling on Amazon; to people trying to clear space on their home book shelves; to people desperate for money selling anything they can, knowing second-hand bookshops have not offered cash for the vast majority of books (instead offering store credit) since the recession at the beginning of the last decade.
Assistant Director and IT Administrator Katharine Seelig, Acting Director of the Lisle Library District, learnt that some of the book titles listed in the notebook corresponded with books that were supposed to be in the LLD’s collection, yet were neither on the shelves nor had been lent out. Library officials could only conclude that someone had stolen the books to sell on the Internet and the notebook was a kind of ledger the thief had accidentally left at the scene of the crime.
Ms. Seelig contacted Amazon to identify the notebook’s owner, but the company was understandably reluctant to identify the seller from the receipts was if his name was not printed on them, so she contacted the Lisle Police Department. A police investigator used an assumed name to purchase a $295 computer reference book from this mysterious seller and showed it to Ms. Seelig, who confirmed that the book was from the LLD’s collection. Subsequently, the Lisle Police Department obtained a subpoena for Amazon to reveal the seller’s identity.
Last Friday, they searched the home of a man who had, until recently, been employed as a janitor at the Lisle Library. The DuPage County State’s Attorney has charged him with three felony crimes: the theft of government property, library theft; and the theft/possession of stolen property worth over $300. Lisle Police Commander told Dudek, “We found reference manuals, laws books, children’s books – there was all kinds of stuff.”
There was a similar incident at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library (AHML) in 1997. In that case, more than 1,100 missing books, audio materials, and artworks were recovered from the home of a part-time clerk, though in her case at least she claimed that she had not intended to sell the materials.