Theft of library materials, along with vandalism – tearing out pages, writing or underlining, and other behaviours that will wear out books or any other library material – is a criminal offense and deprives other citizens of valuable information resources, as well as draining the library and the country’s knowledge base. This has become a daily practice at the National Library of Namibia, and steps must be taken to reduce the incidence. Individuals should have a sense of ownership for public property – it is not only them who use the materials but also the generations to come.
So, why are library users stealing books and other library resources? The answer is only known by them who steal. The upbringing of individuals also plays a role in this behaviour of users. Developmental psychologists tell us that the development of an individual is “contextual”, meaning development occurs within a context, or setting. These contexts include families, schools, peer groups, churches, cities, neighbourhoods, university laboratories, countries, and so on. Each of these settings is influenced by historical, economic, social, and cultural factors (Shiraev & Levy, 2007; Yang, 2005) in Santrock: 2008, p.8.
When it comes to theft in libraries, however, individuals are desperate for some information and think the best way is to steal the book. The economic negatives in many students’ and learners’ lives are far exhausting that they do not even afford to buy books. This poem was written in olden days to prevent theft in libraries:
For him that stealeth, or borroweth and
returneth not this book from its owner,
Let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him.
Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members [be] blasted.
Let him languish in pain crying out for mercy, & let there be no surcease from his agony till he sing in dissolution.
Let bookworms gnaw his entrails [. . .] when at last he goeth to his final punishment,
Let the flames of Hell consume him forever.