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Thousands of books misplaced, lost or stolen from Suffolk’s libraries between 2014 and 2017

PUBLISHED: 13:47 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 13:47 20 February 2017

Almost 10,000 books have gone missing from Suffolk libraries since 2014. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Almost 10,000 books have gone missing from Suffolk libraries since 2014. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Nearly 10,000 books, CDs and DVDs have gone missing from Suffolk libraries in three years, new figures show.

Ipswich County Library. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR Ipswich County Library. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

More than 900 items, which bosses say have either been misplaced, lost or stolen, were recorded at Ipswich County Library between 2014 and 2017.

In comparison, just 161 went missing at Hollesley Bay, Warren Hill and Highpoint prison libraries.

Stolen books are taken very seriously – and those who do steal from libraries are likely to be punished, chief executive Alison Wheeler has warned.

“Clearly some of these items will have been taken from libraries and if someone is suspected of stealing we will contact the police and this will be treated as a criminal matter,” she said.

Felixstowe Library, where 695 books are listed as Felixstowe Library, where 695 books are listed as "missing"

“It’s worth reminding everyone that we do have CCTV in libraries so if someone is suspected of stealing or any other crime they may be caught on camera.

“We’d appeal to anyone who is aware of someone stealing library items to report this to the police or contact Suffolk Libraries.”

CCTV is installed and security is being stepped up over the next few months with new self-service equipment which may help prevent people from taking books away without borrowing them.

Worst-hit libraries include Felixstowe with 695 items listed as “missing”, Beccles with 422, Sudbury with 559 and Woodbridge with 608.

Chief executive of Suffolk Libraries, Alison Wheeler. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Chief executive of Suffolk Libraries, Alison Wheeler. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“It’s not possible to work out how many of these items are actually lost or have needed replacing,” Mrs Wheeler said.

“We always monitor the demand for books and try to make sure we have enough copies of new and existing titles. We do also get a significant discount on new books so the actual cost is less than you’d think.”

News of the missing items comes as Suffolk Libraries were told their budget would be cut by £200,000 in 2017/18.

“We are never complacent about missing items, particularly at a time when funding is so challenging,” Mrs Wheeler added.

“We try to do all we can to be vigilant.

“Apart from our 44 public libraries the figures also cover include other places where you can borrow books including children’s centres and prison libraries – a total of 77 locations.

We also have a dynamic book stock which means items don’t belong to one particular library but can be requested and borrowed from any library across the county. This means our books are always on the move which enables us to meet the needs of our customers.

“We are in the process of introducing new self-service equipment which may help to ensure that some people aren’t unwittingly taking books away without borrowing them.”

Ipswich County Library. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR Ipswich County Library. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

The total number of missing items – 9,486 – has been worked out as being just under 1% of all books over two years.

Figures released to this newspaper show that a stock check taken on March 31, 2014 calculated a total of 1,085,970 books.

Mrs Wheeler added: “It’s important to put these figures into context. Not all these items will actually be missing but may have been misplaced. Sometimes a customer may have returned a book, perhaps using self-service, but it hasn’t scanned properly, or something may have accidentally been put back in the wrong place.

“These figures cover three years and the number of items amounts to well under 1% of the total book stock. Libraries are open and welcoming places and with so many customers and so many books it’s inevitable that some items will go missing.

“For example, we know when people move to another county sometimes their library books go with them and it’s difficult to track them down.”

But Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for finance and heritage, Richard Smith, warned that stolen items deprive others of the joy of reading books.

He said: “The books are a valuable asset and we are confident Suffolk Libraries exercise good stewardship of them.

“Stolen items deprive other people the use of them and while the problem is very minor, both Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Libraries take it very seriously.”

How did your nearest library fare?

Aldeburgh Library 109

Beccles Library 422

Brandon Library 29

Broomhill Library 118

Bungay Library 110

Bury Library Children’s Centre 1

Bury St Edmunds Library 510

Capel St Mary Library 90

Carousel Children’s Centre 1

Chantry Library 279

Clare Library 76

Cornfields Children’s Centre 3

County Reference Library 15

County Reserve (Lowestoft) 181

Debenham Library 24

Dragonflies Children’s Centre 1

Elmswell Library 87

Eye Library 59

Felixstowe Library 695

Foley House Children’s Centre 1

Framlingham Library 109

Gainsborough Library 337

Glemsford Library 57

Great Cornard Library 148

Hadleigh Library 222

Halesworth Library 210

Hardwick Children’s Centre 7

Haverhill Library 295

Hawthorn Children’s Centre 7

Highpoint South Prison 9

Hollesley Bay Prison 151

Ipswich County Library 907

Ixworth Library 91

Kedington Library 30

Kesgrave Children’s Centre 3

Kesgrave Library 189

Kessingland Library 106

Lakenheath Library 22

Lavenham Library 80

LBaRT* 35

Leiston Library 57

Long Melford Library 76

Lowestoft Library 434

Meredith Children’s Centre 4

Mildenhall Library 150

Mobile Library: Bury 39

Mobile Library: Ipswich 27

Mobile Library Reserve 6

Mobile Library: Saxmundham 17

Music and Drama Library 25

Needham Market Library 78

Newmarket Library 434

Oulton Broad Library 71

Rendlesham Children’s Centre 1

Rosehill Library 156

Saxmundham Library 97

Sea Breeze Children’s Centre 1

Southwold Library 113

Stock Unit 27

Stock Unit Lending 1

Stoke Library 206

Stowmarket Library 243

Stradbroke Library 21

Sudbury Library 559

Suffolk Record Office Ipswich 1

Thurston Library 139

Uplands Children’s Centre 1

Warren Hill Prison 1

West Suffolk House 2

Wickham Market Library 64

Woodbridge Library 608

Wooden House Children’s Centre 1

Total - 9486

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