Kansas University officials are conducting a worldwide search as they look to recover thousands of dollars worth of pages stolen from books that date back to the early 1800s.
At least six large, rare and valuable books have been vandalized over the last two weeks at KU’s Watson Library. Valuable artwork, maps and other large prints were ripped out of books, the remnants left scattered throughout the library, including a women’s restroom.
Library workers are hopeful other universities across the globe can provide them copies of the books and missing pages, to aid KU police in their search for those responsible. They said it’s also possible those responsible could prey on other universities for similar materials and they wanted to make them aware of the situation.
Librarians “definitely believe that the thief knew that these were things of value and knew how to go about removing them without being discovered immediately,” said Rebecca Smith, library spokeswoman. “We really haven’t been able to determine if there’s a specific link between these pieces, or if they’re just looking for the large scale artwork.”
Booksellers and other distributors in America, who may be interested in purchasing the valuable pages, are also being contacted to be on the lookout for the missing materials, Smith said. Officials are trying to determine the actual cost of replacing the rare and expensive items.
The impact of the thefts has been felt across the state, library workers said. Many people have expressed their surprise and dismay over the thefts since they were made public on Tuesday.
As a precaution, other books similar to those that were vandalized and stolen have been removed from Watson Library and are being secured in another campus location, Smith said. They can now be viewed at the library upon request, but no longer can be checked out.
“While it’s not unusual for items of this age or value to be stored in an open stack environment, given the current situation, we want to be sure that we are actively protecting what we do have,” Smith said.
Library workers said they’ve also entered into discussions with police and university administrators about adding surveillance technology at the library.
KU Public Safety Office spokesman Schuyler Bailey refused to discuss the police investigation and provided no updates about the crimes on Thursday.
Information about the thefts and vandalism should be reported to the KU Public Safety Office, 864-5900, or KU Crime Stoppers, 864-8888.