Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Security


From: Ton Cremers <securma>
Date: Sunday, April 22, 2001
Ko de van Watering <ko.vandewatering [at] kb__nl> writes

>Recently we had a case of theft of precious maps from books in our
>rare book collection. This has caused curators and library staff to
>start looking desperately for means of safeguarding the books in the
>special collections reading room.
>Someone has suggested to start weighing the books before and after
>(use). Is this a viable option and does anybody really employ this
>system? I was told that the British Library uses such a system but I
>have been unable to get any information on this. I still would
>prefer checking the books carefully before and after use.

Weighing of bundles, packets or volumes of documents before issue to
a reader and on return is now pretty well standard practice at
Record Offices and other archive repositories throughout the UK.

This was introduced about a dozen years ago after more than half of
the county record offices and many other archive repositories and
manuscript libraries were systematically looted by one or two
individuals who cleverly extracted single items of high postal
collection value (particularly pre-postage stamp "covers" and
envelopes carrying postal frankings) and returned the bundle, packet
or volume apparently complete. (In very many cases the theft was
only detected when an item recovered by the Police after arrest was
traced back to its origins.)  The same events caused the majority of
county record offices to pool resources and information in relation
to both legitimate readers (by issuing after identity checks a
standard Reader's Ticket recognised in many different places), and
in relation to suspects or suspicious events.

Clearly you need a very accurate set of electronic scales which will
weigh both quickly and accurately to a matter of a very few
milligrammes at the most if you are to detect the removal of e.g. a
single archive sheet, or a page or illustration from a book.
However, the staff should also carry out a quick visual check of
returned items as well as checking the weight. The specialist
criminal will be very well aware of the weight checks: indeed these
are normally carried out in from of the reader, so there is a risk
that a stolen item could be replaced by a sheet or two of modern
paper to make up the weight.

Despite this, the new procedures are felt to have both significantly
improved security and saved much staff time compared with
conventional detailed checking such as counting individual items in
bundles or the number of pages in published rare books or in bound
volumes of manuscripts.

Patrick Boylan
The Museum Security Network

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:56
                  Distributed: Monday, April 23, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-14-56-012
Received on Sunday, 22 April, 2001

[Search all CoOL documents]

URL: http://