Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Looting of Butler Library

This afternoon, I paid a visit to the Collection Management Librarian at Butler Library. I had three objectives when I knocked on the door of his office. The first was to apologize for the mess the Irregulars had made on the sixth floor of the library's stacks. The second was to alert the librarian to the presence of a thief. My third and final goal was to squeeze as much information out of him as possible.

I was hoping to make use of the element of surprise, but the fact that a thief is on the loose in Butler Library didn’t come as news to the librarian. While books are stolen from Butler all the time, he informed me, this semester the thefts have increased at a dizzying rate. What’s more, the thieves’ taste seems to be better than usual. While the subject matter of the stolen books has ranged from Teddy Roosevelt to the Battle of Troy, most of the volumes have had one thing in common—they’re extremely rare. The librarian was even kind enough to show me his handwritten list. I recognized a few of the titles, but one stood out from the rest. Glimpses of Gotham.

The librarian still hopes that the missing books will one day be recovered. It's the fate of the books that aren’t missing that concerns him the most. Sometime in February, he began to see evidence of terrible vandalism. Old books were regularly turning up with missing pages. A little research told him that nearly all of the pages that had been removed contained illustrations—usually maps or prints that were worth a fortune to collectors. He said it would be impossible to know just how many illustrations had been stolen without examining every single book at Butler, but he knew the thieves had made a fortune. One of the maps that had been ripped out of a book was worth ten thousand dollars alone.

As for the mess Kiki and DeeDee had left behind in the stacks, all was forgiven when I agreed to give a statement to the police. They are already looking into thefts, but they aren’t convinced that one person is behind them. And as one of the policemen pointed out, we hadn’t actually seen the filthy man steal anything. The cops were, however, quite intrigued by DeeDee’s glow-in-the-dark solution and asked if I could provide them with a sample. I tried to refuse as politely as possible.

By the time I left the library, my head was throbbing. The police warned me not to look for the man in the stacks. But now that a copy of Glimpses of Gotham is involved, there’s no way that the Irregulars can call an end to our investigation.


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