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Book theft and stock loss in academic libraries: a case study of the University of Leeds Library

posted on 03.10.2017 by Sam Gibbard

Book theft and stock loss in academic libraries is certainly not a new problem. But with rising costs, the introduction of tuition fees, and changing user needs and expectations, it is an area that needs reviewing. Greater acknowledgement of the costs and effects that it causes must be made by institutions. This dissertation focuses on the key issues in this area, while undertaking a case study of the University of Leeds. This dissertation satisfied these aims by undertaking a large review of the relevant literature on the subject and by implementing practical research.

A number of key findings were made by this research: despite this being a problem that an organisation such as the University of Leeds is aware of, there is still a high level of theft and stock loss occurring at this institution; the implementation of guidelines for users, and a clear policy on how to deal with these losses may well help reduce them; library security devices are not infallible, and constant vigilance must be kept up, and ways of circumventing the devices must be counteracted or eliminated; non-return has not traditionally been thought of in the same terms as theft, yet the library looses a serious amount of stock each year.

The main conclusions this research found were that while there are many different approaches to tackling this problem, solutions must be effective for each organisation. By focusing the case study on one organisation, the unique qualities could be examined, while specific recommendations could be made for the University of Leeds. Management must acknowledge the cost and effect of library theft and stock loss to a greater degree than they currently do, as this problem has more than just a financial cost to the institution, it also adversely affects the teaching, research, and user perception of the library.

The researcher urges an overall rethink of the University of Leeds’ policies and methods for dealing with book theft and stock loss, and warns of the potential and actual financial and academic cost of these activities. This research argues that although this problem will never likely be eradicated altogether, ignoring it, or failing to deal with it effectively will only allow the problem to worsen.




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