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When unusual title went missing, library took notice

James Jackson pleaded not guilty to felony theft after he was accused of stealing library books and DVDs to sell on the Internet. Read the full story here

James Jackson pleaded not guilty to felony theft after he was accused of stealing library books and DVDs to sell on the Internet. Read the full story here

One title caught the eye of the Lisle Library staff on a list of “ex library” books for sale over the Internet.

That book, a history of DuPage County that was suspiciously missing from the small library’s stacks, stood out as administrators pored over the list found on a book cart in the library.

“It wasn’t like it was Danielle Steel’s most recent book. A couple of (the books listed) were unique titles,” said Katharine Seelig, acting director of the library. “It was just odd that there was this kind of list of titles that we owned that were maybe not on our shelves anymore.”

Four months later, after police say they purchased a book stolen from the library and subpoenaed Amazon.com for the seller’s identity, James F. Jackson, 43, of the 300 block of Spruce Lane in Glen Ellyn, was charged with three counts of felony theft and accused of removing thousands of dollars worth of reference books, DVDs and other materials from the library.

Jackson, a janitor who cleaned the library at night, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He appeared in DuPage County Court Monday and is due back in court on Oct. 18.

In Jackson’s Glen Ellyn apartment, police found a cache of DVDs and books so large a cube truck needed to be borrowed from a car dealership to haul it all away, said Lisle Police Commander Ron Wilke.

The use of the online services fundamentally changes the dynamic libraries have had with book thieves, Seelig said. Items went missing because someone wanted it, she said. Now there’s a different incentive – call it an unintended consequence of a wired age.

“Online auction and sales sites are popular locations to sell stolen merchandise because, depending on the site rules, there’s a measure of anonymity,” Jenny Shearer, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said via email.

Historically auction fraud, which includes the online sale of stolen goods, was one of the main sources of Internet crime complaints. But that has changed as internet crimes have diversified. In 2010 auction fraud accounted for 10 percent of reported Internet crimes and the sale of stolen goods represented an even smaller sliver, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

But Molly Raphael, president of the American Library Association said the potential for stolen books being sold over the Internet still gives her pause.

“Online sales complicate this issue because of ways that books and other items can be sold,” Raphael said. “That connection of seller with buyer is much more complex and impersonal than it used to be.”

Library officials say they aren’t sure when books, some worth $300 to $500, began to disappear. And they don’t know how many are still missing. The items seized from Jackson’s apartment are still held by the Lisle police department, which makes estimating the value of the recovered books difficult, Seelig said.

“Most libraries have things that go missing,” Seelig said. “It’s not like (someone) cleaned out a whole shelf in an evening. (The thief) wasn’t doing the sort of thing that was really obvious.”

A family member said Jackson, who is held in DuPage County jail and declined to be interviewed, works hard to support his children. He has held down multiple jobs at once, the family member said.

His only local conviction is from a May 2010 arrest, when Glen Ellyn police found him passed out behind the wheel of a car around 10 a.m., along Roosevelt Road, according to DuPage County court records.

A public defender assigned to Jackson’s case could not be reached for comment.

For the last few years he worked in the library alone at night and had a security code allowing him to come and go, Seelig said.

Garry Clarke, Chief Operating Officer for Jani-King, which had a contract with the library, would not confirm Jackson’s employment with the company. The company’s contract was not renewed this summer, before Jackson was charged, for an unrelated reason, Seelig said.

Seelig said security improvements are not a priority since the suspect is someone who had keys to the library. But she said the library board would likely explore changes to other practices.

“If it’s not something checked out every week it can be something that you don’t notice for months,” she said.

bslodysko@tribune.com

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