Brazen book crook hits Snohomish County libraries

LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- Book crooks have swiped hundreds of library books from Snohomish County branches over the past year, and library officials say the books are being resold for next to nothing.

Best sellers are gone. A machinery manual is missing. Books on cooking, quilting, welding, and decorating disappeared in 2013 from library shelves in Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds and Lynnwood.

"We did not notice the books missing from simply looking at the shelves," said Sno-Isle Libraries spokesman Ken Harvey.

An on-line bookseller tipped off the libraries after spotting a tell-tale library property clue on merchandise. That's when librarians took the shelves looking for stolen books and movies.

"The system said they were here, the shelves showed they were not here," Harvey said.

The book thief apparently used library computers to access Cash4Books. Librarians suspect the book buying website helped the thief decipher which volumes were the most valuable.

The book dealer turned over an IP address, which let the library know which computer the book crook was using. Everyone who logs on is registered.

Now every library in the Sno-Isle system is told to watch for the Lynnwood man who left behind less valuable books.

"It's a shame, just a shame," said library regular Rhapsody Thomas. "It really makes me sick. It's a lending library."

What makes the crimes even worse, the thief reportedly sold the stolen library books for pennies on the dollar.

"It would be surprising if he's making more than 10, 20, or 30 cents on the dollar cost of an item," Harvey said.

The book dealer returned several of the stolen books, and the libraries replaced the most popular.

Library staff wants customers to speak out if they spot anything suspicious. Harvey said they're considering posting signs that warn customers that taking books without checking out is a crime but staff doesn't want to destroy the welcoming atmosphere.