Book bandits beware: Pocketing paperbacks or tearing up tomes at the Oxnard Library may prove difficult due to a new video surveillance system.
Seeking to halt rampant book theft and vandalism at the red-brick building, the Friends of the Oxnard Library raised $18,000 for a set of cameras and mirrors to monitor hard-to-see spaces.
"Books were going through the easy checkout--off the roof," said Friends President Felicity Harper. "People were throwing them off the balcony to their friends down below."
A video security system was supposed to be installed in the building when it was built in 1992, but the plan was scrapped due to dwindling funds as the building neared construction, Harper said.
The $12-million, 72,000-square-foot library has more than 250,000 books on its shelves. An average of 2,000 patrons visit the building each day, officials said.
The Friends of the Oxnard Library, which runs a gift shop in the building's first floor, bought five video cameras, 11 curved mirrors, monitors and other surveillance equipment with funds donated by a group of city businesses, associations and residents. Four cameras have been installed to date.
Contributors included the Rotary Club of Oxnard, the Ventura County Amateur Radio Club, Thompson Lumber Co., Gene Jackson Farms Inc. and Procter & Gamble Papers Product Co.
Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez pitched in $100 for the surveillance system, Harper said.
"A security system was certainly needed," Lopez said. "It's such a beautiful building, but as soon as it was open and dedicated, we started to see graffiti and damage. People weren't taking care of it. It's really kind of sad."
Michele Izay, services manager for the Oxnard Library, said the theft and vandalism at the building have been exaggerated.
"The library, I feel, is in excellent shape," Izay said. "Most people tend to take pretty good care of the library, but like any public building, we've had some problems with graffiti and vandalism."
But Harper said the library was becoming blighted and scarred.
"The glass entry doors were etched, the windows were etched, mirrors in the restrooms were etched," Harper said. "The surfaces were literally cut into. What they used I have no idea. But many had to be replaced."
People were not only defacing the building, but the books as well, she added.
"Instead of someone checking the book out for a class project, the pages would be cut out," Harper said. "And there was theft of books, which you think wouldn't happen with our checkout system."
Members of the Friends of the Oxnard Library are still raising money to pay for 10 more cameras they hope to install next year, increasing the total cost of the surveillance system to about $29,000.
Izay said anything that keeps books on the shelves and the building intact is welcome.
"We can go back, look at the tapes and maybe catch someone," Harper said. "At least it will act as a deterrent."