A melted record, chewed and cut up books, damaged headphones and scratched compact discs are just a few of the items that recently were displayed at the Lawrence Public Library above the banner "Your Library Tax Dollars Abused."
The exhibit, which ran through Friday, was put up a month ago by Sandra Wiechert, reference librarian, who wanted to demonstrate the extent of vandalism and theft of library materials.
"It brought out a lot of public interest," Wiechert said. "Many people just weren't aware" of the types of abuses.
Several of the books on display were abused by patrons who cut out parts of pages, tore entire pages out or, in one case, used an apple core as a book mark, she said.
Another book on display was recently returned after being stolen from behind the reference desk. The library received it in the mail from California with no explanation, Wiechert said.
AS THE display has increased public awareness, it also has increased the number of returned items, Wiechert said. "A large collection of videos was brought back, and so were some damaged books."
Circulation department manager Pattie Armbruster estimates the yearly cost of damaged materials to the library about $200, although she cautioned that the figure wasn't really reflective of the true costs.
"A lot of the repairs don't get charged because they are done in house," Armbruster said.
The library has two staff members who spend a lot of time repairing books, damaged from both age and vandalism, Wiechert said.
Sometimes the books are beyond repair, as was one book in the exhibit that had deep teeth marks around the corners.
Wiechert said people sometimes try to pass the buck by saying the book already was damaged when they checked it out.
"BUT WE would not check out a book that was dog chewed," Wiechert said. "We would make a note about the book."
When someone does bring in a damaged book, the library usually charges them for the cost of repair or replacement, Armbruster said.
"We look to see if it can be repaired because so many things cannot be replaced," she said.
Replacement is often difficult because some books are not in print for very long, Wiechert said. Even if the book is still in print, sometimes it is too expensive to buy a new copy after authors have become famous and companies have raised the price of the book, she said.
If the patron refuses to pay the repair or replacement charge, the library will usually cancel the patron's card, Armbruster said.
"Everytime you take something out, it's your responsibility," she said. "We can always find them," she said of patrons who try make it difficult for the library to track them.
"WE DON'T want anyone to ever be afraid to tell us. If they don't tell us, it'll come around. We'll try to work with them as best we can . . . It happens to the best of us."
Wiechert plans to display the exhibit again in the fall when more students will be in Lawrence because "students are our most common patrons," she said.