An anonymous reader shares a fascinating true-crime story from Pittsburgh. Smithsonian magazine reports:
Like nuclear power plants and sensitive computer networks, the safest rare book collections are protected by what is known as “defense in depth” — a series of small, overlapping measures designed to thwart a thief who might be able to overcome a single deterrent. The Oliver Room, home to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s rare books and archives, was something close to the platonic ideal of this concept. Greg Priore, manager of the room starting in 1992, designed it that way.
The room has a single point of entry, and only a few people had keys to it. When anyone, employee or patron, entered the collection, Priore wanted to know. The room had limited daytime hours, and all guests were required to sign in and leave personal items, like jackets and bags, in a locker outside. Activity in the room was under constant camera surveillance. In addition, the Oliver Room had Priore himself. His desk sat at a spot that commanded the room and the table where patrons worked. When a patron returned a book, he checked that it was still intact. Security for special collections simply does not get much better than that of the Oliver Room.
In the spring of 2017, then, the library’s administration was surprised to find out that many of the room’s holdings were gone. It wasn’t just that a few items were missing. It was the most extensive theft from an American library in at least a century, the value of the stolen objects estimated to be $8 million…
Perpetrating a daring 25-year heist, the thief “stole nearly everything of significant monetary value,” the magazine reports. So who done it?
Just about the only thing that keeps an insider from stealing from special collections is conscience. Security measures may thwart outside thieves, but if someone wants to steal from the collection he stewards, there is little to stop him. Getting books and maps and lithographs out the door is not much harder than simply taking them from the shelves…
The perpetrator was ultimately sentenced to three years’ house arrest and 12 years’ probation, the article reports, while his fence received four years’ house arrest and 12 years’ probation.
“After the sentences were made public, Carole Kamin, a member of the board of the Carnegie Natural History Museum, wrote to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that supporters of local nonprofits ‘were appalled at the unbelievably light sentences.'”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.