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DVDs vanish off library shelves

Old 10-26-05, 12:52 PM
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DVDs vanish off library shelves

Ran across this article I thought would be of interest since it involves DVDs.

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/met...nid=amn102605e


Gwinnett County's library system had about 39,000 DVDs at one time to lend to patrons, but now nearly half of them are gone. Librarians say the cost of a remedy is more than the system has to spend


DVDs vanish off library shelves
High theft rate forces Gwinnett to cut back


By DUANE D. STANFORD
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/26/05
Thieves in Gwinnett County have lifted enough DVDs from public library shelves to fill more than two video stores and wipe out nearly half the system's collection.

The thefts got so bad — nearly 17,000 discs in all —the library board quietly shut down the 5-year-old program last month and began selling off the remaining inventory.

"It's disgusting," said board Chairman Dan English.

Parents who relied on the DVDs to inexpensively entertain and educate their youngsters agree. They now have to go to video stores to rent DVDs they had borrowed for free. Parents also are angry that the library board sold off the collection without their input.

Beth McCloy of Buford had no idea DVD loans had been eliminated until a recent trip to her branch.

"After I picked myself off the floor, I said. 'You've got to be kidding,' " recalled McCloy, who used the DVDs as part of a home school curriculum for her three children.

"It's a shame that the small percentage of the population takes the enjoyment, the freedom and the availability of these items from everyone else," McCloy said. "Everyone suffers."

McCloy and others want the program back. But the library board isn't likely to relent.

"The economics don't add up right now," English said.

The lost discs have already cost the taxpayer-funded library system about $250,000, administrators estimated. They say better DVD security would cost at least $150,000 a year, money the system can't afford for a collection that accounts for less than 4 percent of all checkouts.

Gwinnett's collection included only children's titles, such as those featuring Barney and Wiggles, and educational selections from producers like National Geographic. The only feature-length movies were "Cinderella" and similar titles.

Librarians first started noticing DVDs were missing a couple of years ago. Parents arrived home from the library with DVD cases that turned out to be empty. Or DVDs would be missing from shelves, even though the library's computer system showed they had not been checked out.

Library workers didn't catch on to the scope of the problem until early 2004. A routine inventory showed the DVDs were missing at a higher rate than books, CDs, magazines and other materials.

Suspicious, administrators called the system's 12 branches and asked librarians to look inside the cases to see if they still contained discs. Many were empty.

In all, thieves made off with 44 percent of the system's roughly 39,000 DVDs. Theft rates for other types of materials, such as books, are less than 2 percent, marketing director Cindy Murphy said.

Librarians aren't sure how the discs disappeared, but they assume most were slipped out of their cases inside the libraries. Had the discs disappeared after being checked out, the culprits could have been traced.

"I would really hate to think that there was some parent ripping them off, and having some little kid by the hand and saying this is OK," Murphy said.

English said at least one library patron reported seeing a teen slip a DVD into a portable CD player and walk out as if listening to music.

Unique to Gwinnett?

Library systems in other large metro Atlanta counties haven't reported the same excessive theft rates, but some of their DVD collections are much smaller. DeKalb County has about 9,000 videos. Cobb just started its collection, which is nearing 2,000 discs. Both counties use locking boxes — like those used at video rental stores — to discourage five-finger discounts. Atlanta-Fulton County's library system is looking for a way to better secure its nearly 19,000 DVDs after thefts there.

Other libraries nationwide have struggled with DVD thefts. An Oregon man was convicted in July of stealing $3,000 worth of DVDs from a public library, according to news reports. Police found them stacked in his home.

Other libraries have stumbled upon stolen inventory at stores that buy and sell used DVDs. A Cleveland librarian several years ago found more than 800 DVDs at a used bookstore with library tags still on them.

Central checkout fails

Gwinnett created a centralized checkout last year to try to curb thefts. Patrons reserved discs on-line to be picked up at their local branch. Murphy said roughly 70 percent of the collection went unused and DVDs still disappeared.

Library directors then moved the less popular educational titles back to the floor so they didn't simply collect dust. For two months theft rates stayed low before spiking to nearly 25 percent.

Directors considered putting electronic dispensers at each branch, but the technology would have cost $150,000 a year, Murphy said.

The board studied keeping the discs locked away behind a counter, but patrons scan most of their own checkouts. Administrators estimated it would cost a minimum of $172,000 a year for employees to handle every DVD transaction.

"That's a lot of impact on other services," Murphy said. The library system's annual budget is about $17.6 million, most of which comes from county taxpayers.

The library board instead sold off the collection. The only videos now left — about 5,000 — are still checked out.

Library Executive Director Jo Ann Pinder acknowledged patrons should have been notified of the change. "It fell through the cracks," she said. "There's no excuse for that."

But Pinder argued the library's primary mission is to teach and encourage children to read, not watch DVDs.

"We're in the book business," she said. "Give me a whole bunch of money, and I can do everything for everybody."

English said he hopes the price of the electronic dispensers will eventually come down. Meanwhile, the thieves are still at work.

On Friday, Pinder got word from one of her branches that 27 DVDs on a hold shelf had disappeared.
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Old 10-26-05, 12:57 PM
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For some strange reason,at my local library people check out the Criterions,then they always seem to lose them.
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Old 10-26-05, 01:04 PM
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The Gwinnett County library system had 39,000 DVDs!! And I thought the library in my city had a lot, but I don't think it's anywhere remotely near there.

I don't know what more cost-effective measures the library could have taken to prevent these thefts. Perhaps a couple of good security guards in the libraries might help (depending on each library's size of course). The security guards at my local libraries are laughable (just look for the guy leaning against a support column with his eyes half closed). Some other branches are using security stickers, the circular kind that go over top the disc's inner ring, to prevent theft. So if any disc that has not been checked out passes through the scanners at the door, the alarm will go off. Then again, not all branches do this, because of customer complaints that such discs don't play properly (due to them being unbalanced I would think).

The library here has also started ordering several anime box sets and complete season sets of tv shows. Yeah, I'm sure that a $160 anime box set will be in circulation for a long while ...

Last edited by Toben; 10-26-05 at 01:06 PM.
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Old 10-26-05, 01:08 PM
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But Pinder argued the library's primary mission is to teach and encourage children to read, not watch DVDs.

"We're in the book business," she said. "Give me a whole bunch of money, and I can do everything for everybody."


WRONG...they are in the business to educate. The format is of little diffrence.
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Old 10-26-05, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Cameron
But Pinder argued the library's primary mission is to teach and encourage children to read, not watch DVDs.

"We're in the book business," she said. "Give me a whole bunch of money, and I can do everything for everybody."


WRONG...they are in the business to educate. The format is of little diffrence.
Not so. DVDs are passive entertainment, books actively require the participation of the reader. Relevant article from USA Today (Not authoritative, I know, but virtually every reputable firsthand research source wants a subscription fee.). Libraries should be in the book business, not serving as a free alternative to Blockbuster.

I'm a big fan of DVDs (I own nearly 700), but our society's well being depends on citiznes equipped to reason, research, and think critically about issues, and you cannot get that from watching movies or playing video games.

Last edited by Gobear; 10-26-05 at 01:23 PM.
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Old 10-26-05, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Cameron
..they are in the business to educate. The format is of little diffrence.
I don't think my library got that memo, since they have copies of Team America and South Park. Not that I'm complaining, but doesn't seem very educational
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Old 10-26-05, 01:23 PM
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i'm not talking about copies of dude wheres my car...National Geographic and seseme street were being stolen. What is the diffrence between checking out the dvd for the shining, or the book with the same name and story... Film/video is still and infant compared to the written language, but still has the ability to educate. More parents leave there kids with big bird than read to them...
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Old 10-26-05, 01:44 PM
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I don't understand where they come up with the estimate of a $150,000 a year to implement better security measures. My library keeps the DVD cases on the shelves, but keeps the DVDs in paper cases (like those from Netflix) behind the counter. It takes the librarian all of twenty seconds to find or file a disc. No way does that kind of precautionary measure eat up anywhere close to $150K a year in equipement outlay or employee time.
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Old 10-26-05, 01:52 PM
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"They say better DVD security would cost at least $150,000 a year."

It costs $150k annually to put discs behind a counter?


EDIT: Damn, Yakusa beat me to it!
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Old 10-26-05, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Gobear
Not so. DVDs are passive entertainment, books actively require the participation of the reader.
That's horseshit--there are movies that require quite an investment of attention and active reasoning skills (2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY comes screaming to mind); just as there are shit movies, there are shit books, and just as there are educational and profoundly insightful books, thousands of films can claim likewise.

Originally Posted by Gobear
Libraries should be in the book business, not serving as a free alternative to Blockbuster.
So it's okay for them to serve as a free alternative to Barnes & Noble? Double-standard nonsense.
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Old 10-26-05, 03:48 PM
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Free DVD's in libraries eh?!

Where I live in PAL land our library has only just started dvd's and only have about 50 or 60!!

And they charge £2.50 per week to get them out!
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Old 10-26-05, 03:59 PM
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OOO thats just ridiculous that people are ripping them off. Its a library
for friggin sakes.

Me, i happen to love the fact that my library system has access to alot of difficult to find discs. Sure if you want a copy of Police Academy 12 or the next oscar worthy movie about computer generated talking kangaroos, you can go to blockbuster. But if you are trying to track down any movie made before 1977, heaven forbid an actual 'classic' or say criterion release, you are pretty much out of luck at the main rental places. (fortunately netflix does have said movies). The library system is great for this.

As for security - lets face it, we live in a world of crime. If the library is going to stock the discs they should plan on some level of security. $150k seems steep though. Seems to me a much simpler and cheaper system (free) would be to keep the discs in a simple file cabinet behind the counter and the cases could all be on the floor. Sure it'd add a couple seconds to each checkout, but it would eliminate all crime and not cost the library a penny. just my 2 cents.
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Old 10-26-05, 04:17 PM
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My library (Columbus Metropolitan, voted best library in the nation ), has an extensive collecton of dvds. There is in fact an entire wall of Criterions just at the main branch! I've actually curtailed my rentals and use the collection's reserve system as my own free netflix. I've often felt like I was getting over, and I'm surprised that so many good titles remain available. I once used the self checkout for a copy of "The Exorcist" among others and realized when I got home that I had forgotten to check it out and had walked right out the door with it. No alarm, no khaki besuited guard with a water pistol was there to stop me. The libraries should make a better effort to protect these valuable resources.People are scum. And as far as the DVD's being merely entertainement, I'd argue that the cinema is as valid an educational resource as any other format in their system.
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Old 10-26-05, 05:12 PM
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I don't see a problem with libraries carrying films but if I could only pick one, I'd rather have kids read To Kill a Mockingbird than watch the film. Just too many lazy people out there who think like George Costanza.
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Old 10-26-05, 05:24 PM
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That sucks!

If people were stealing them from inside the library and leaving the cases behind they should have gotten a bunch of the Amarary Security Cases and the locking prongs. At the very least have some sort of security device or system in place. Perhaps have empty cases and keep the discs in back?

I hate criminals, but when you leave stuff like this out, its bound to be stolen, right?

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Old 10-26-05, 05:24 PM
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How stupid are these people? They could easily have purchase those donut looking disk holders that hold like 5000 disks a peice and are lockable for only a few thousand dollars from CDW they get networked with a catalog on a PC so that whenever you input a number the thing spits out a disk.

They would have spent app. $24,000 dollars one time with my method, no added security needed
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Old 10-26-05, 05:31 PM
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^
Exactly. The people that financially support that library should be screaming right about now. Not only because they no longer carry DVDs, but because the staff/management were so shortsighted and, frankly, stupid. They apparently left all of these DVDs just sitting out on a shelf, and then didn't even react until 1/4 of a million dollars worth of product was stolen. That's simply an organization that's too lazy or stupid to care about the resources it has been given.
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Old 10-26-05, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by bboisvert
^
Exactly. The people that financially support that library should be screaming right about now. Not only because they no longer carry DVDs, but because the staff/management were so shortsighted and, frankly, stupid. They apparently left all of these DVDs just sitting out on a shelf, and then didn't even react until 1/4 of a million dollars worth of product was stolen. That's simply an organization that's too lazy or stupid to care about the resources it has been given.
Maybe the thieves also stole all the books about library security.
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Old 10-26-05, 05:59 PM
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Maybe they should have a computer set up with free access to an illegal copying program? Then they could just copy them there instead of steal them.
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Old 10-26-05, 07:04 PM
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Wow. We've gotten to the point that stuff is stolen and we blame the people that "should have known better." Sort of like a law in Charlotte that says if you are warming up your car in your driveway and it's stolen, the police can cite you.

Satire never had so much material.
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Old 10-26-05, 07:11 PM
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I don't think that anyone is saying the blame doesn't ultimately lie with the scumbags who are pocketing the DVDs, but come on... This is a public building and anyone (honest/dishonest/well-to-do/homeless/adult/child) is encouraged to use. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that placing 39,000 DVDs (a product that is in high demand, easy to swipe, and easy to resell) out in the open will result in theft. The fact that they apparently had NO means of securing them and didn't take them away until 17,000 (!) had been stolen is the unbelievable part -- not that they were taken in the first place.
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Old 10-26-05, 09:36 PM
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I blame the library for not noticing that almost half their DVDs had been stolen.

The thieves were probably a small number of people. They were the source of the problem. They will probably get away scott free. But the library should have noticed something was wrong.

Remember that guy who stole $20 million worth of rare books before he was caught?

http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byorg.../an15-702.html
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Old 10-26-05, 09:51 PM
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People also like to cut out individual pages from books. This guy is suspected of stealing many millions of dollars over two decades:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/mas...st_of_missing/

http://www.antiquesandthearts.com/TT...-15-17-08-58p1

Smiley's website states that during his 25 years in business that he has "built several of the largest collections of American cartographic materials in this country, including the Norman Leventhal collection of New England maps and the Lawrence H. Slaughter collection of English maps and atlases - now at the New York Public Library."

Last edited by Nick Danger; 10-26-05 at 09:55 PM.
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Old 10-26-05, 10:34 PM
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My local library (Cincinnati, OH) keeps their DVDs in those plexiglass-like security shells that completely wrap around the DVD [like the type Blockbuster uses on some of their used titles (the ones with a high theft rate)]. Each DVD has a security sticker and if you were to try to sneak out with the DVD and case, the security alarm sounds.

Easy enough, problem solved.

By the way, I think it's funny when someone says "library's shouldn't stock DVDs because that's what video stores are for". Yet they think it's OK for the library to carry books even though that's what bookstores are for!
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Old 10-26-05, 10:40 PM
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Perhaps the estimate of $150,000 includes additonal money for more employees if eah borow becomes more complicated. It could also pay for regular inventory and security personell. The dollar amount might mean the new system and the personnel to man the new system.
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