A new mystery has made its way to the shelves of the St. Michael Public Library — the case of the disappearing DVDs.
Managers of the library, officially known as St. Michael-Albertville-Hanover Community Library, report more than 100 DVDs missing from its inventory. They noticed it last summer, and it has continued over the past few months, said St. Michael Branch Manager Marla Scherber.
"They're just disappearing," Scherber said. "We started to notice that people would order them, and we'd look on our shelves and they weren’t here. Every day, we'd run the list, and it would say the movie is here, but not a single one on the shelf. And it's not that it's checked out or has been damaged — it says it's here and it's not.”
Officials from the St. Cloud-based Great River Regional Library system, of which the St. Michael branch is a part of, said the theft, although possible, has not been confirmed. There could be other reasons why the DVDs appear to be missing, such as the system not checking items out correctly.
An ongoing investigation is exploring all possible scenarios.
"Maybe it has nothing to do with St. Michael, but with how people are setting the system," said Karen Pundsack, regional coordinator of patron services at Great River Regional Library. "It could be someone stealing, or it could be a combination of both."
Jake Grussing, collection development coordinator at Great River library system conducted an inventory at the St. Michael branch last week, and confirmed that there were DVDs missing from shelves.
As the investigation continues, Grussing is scheduled to conduct another inventory at the St. Michael branch next week.
"Then we'll get a better sense of the trend whether somebody is taking things," he said. "I'll get a number."
Discovering the Dilemma
The missing DVDs are a range of children's and adult's movies — which are located in two different sections of the library, Scherber said.
Most are action or adventure films, she noted, like Spiderman and Harry Potter movies — and some comedies. In the children's section, one example is that all three copies of the movie Tangled are missing.
"Some of those that are popular for the younger crowd seemed to be missing, we noticed at first," Scherber explained. "And in our inventory, we began noticing adult ones as well."
That’s when it hit her that "something's going on here," she said.
"We ran a check to see if there were other ones missing," she said. "We ran it on drama and noticed some of those missing — we knew there was going to be more."
It left her with some unanswered questions.
"We don't know how long they've been missing," Scherber said. "It could have started a long time ago."
At the library's previous location, one or two DVDs would go missing here and there, she noted, but nothing like the number missing now.
'Our Hands are Tied'
Scherber said she’s disappointed about the possible theft.
"This doesn't make any sense why they would steal them when they're free to check out," she said. "It makes me angry that it's happening and our hands are kind of tied on how much we can do. It all depends on the budget and I just hope there's something we can do that doesn't cost the library a lot of money."
Scherber said it's impossible for staff to keep an eye on all parts of the library.
"There are parts of the library that you can't see from the desks," she said. "We have people out and about, but they can't be watching everything."
The library is not equipped with security devices that alert staff when an item was not properly checked out — those are at busier branches, Scherber said.
She added that library staff may be looking into getting cameras.
"We hate to come to that, but that might be where we have to go," she said.
Some members of the public have suggested to staff that volunteers could be on hand to watch the library, she said.
"But they're not trained in security, and people don't have time to sit and patrol the library — I don't think that's the answer," she said. "The answer is to have people stop stealing. I don't know what we can do to make people stop — that's what's frustrating."
New releases cost the library between $15 and $30 a piece — and just-released television series DVDs are sometimes $80, she said. The money comes out of the Great River Regional Library system budget.
Pundsack, of the library system headquarters, said missing DVDs are occasionally seen throughout the region.
"It's not to the point that it's unique to St. Michael — this has happened in other libraries," Pundsack said.
She and other library officials urge anyone with information regarding the missing DVDs or any other missing material to contact the St. Michael branch at 763-497-1998.