“Violence Against Library Materials”

OPUS Library picture with OPUS Special Collect...

OPUS Library picture with OPUS Special Collections Librarian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was a quiet afternoon when all of a sudden the alarm went off. All eyes were fixed on two Grade 10 learners who looked surprised, but not worried. The girls were called to the Reference Desk for a quick search. Everything was OK — no library material was in their possession — and so they were told to proceed…. Again the alarm went off; and the librarians who were getting suspicious called them again. “What did you take from the library?” Like everybody, the answer was “nothing, we didn’t get anything.”

So the librarian decided to pass with every item the girls carried and it came to pass that the file triggered the alarm during that process. Now the atmosphere changed. Cheerful faces now looked pale, eyes were filled with tears, and fear took control of young minds. The girls were visibly shaken, not knowing the next step the librarians could take. But how did it come to this, you may ask?

It all began from the very beginning — requesting for the material. The library usually asks for the ID whenever the material requested is from the legal deposit collection. But 15-year-olds (Grade 10s) do not have IDs and so are requested to bring back the materials to the reference desk when they are done reading. As a result, there is no guarantee that the younger users will return the materials given to them. Now the girls set quietly at the back and began to remove pages from a study guide in order for them to read further at home. Not knowing that the book had a security system in place, they began to take steps towards the security gate and on their way home. But what looked like a well-calculated plan backfired.

What Causes Vandalism of Library Materials?

Vandalism of library materials includes writing on pages, folding pages, tearing pages, etc. Sometimes people are forced by circumstances to rip off pages of a library material. For example: when a learner has not studied a subject well in advance so as to write a test the next morning. The unpreparedness might trigger panic when s/he realizes that time is running faster than expected. Then questions may come: what should I do to cover all the chapters remaining?, what if I…? After, perhaps, a long pose, the victim becomes the library material.

This is the scenario, but whose fault is it really? It can be said here that sometimes parents are at a certain certain extent at fault. This is because they do not want to buy certain books for their children to boost their learning. If parents do not want to support their children’s learning pursuits, the results will be such as the story above. On the other hand, however, it is said that ‘charity begins at home’, which in this context should mean one’s behavior displayed in public is one’s behavior at home as well. To parents, the wisest man ever to live says: “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Correct your son, and he will give you rest…” (Proverbs 29:15, 17).

It is not only teenagers who are violating library materials such as books, but also unemployed youth who cut out job adverts from newspapers. This is cruelty, and should be termed ‘violence against books and newspapers’. It shows how selfish our citizens have become — ‘keep everything to myself’. I doubt very much that if the same people doing these acts would find the materials they really want to use, in a shameful condition: pages ripped. It is painful.


Will it be cool to find yourself in the hands of the police, and eventually into prison? Perhaps this happen and the hardcore criminals asks what you have done to be joining them down there. They will break down into laughter when you tell them: “I tore a job advert from a newspaper.” Dearest people, you can end up in jail for such a ‘small crime’ as violence against books and newspapers, and so you must stop this act.

Now every library have measures in place to ensure that their materials are protected from criminal acts. Every material — even the smallest — have security in it and the doors are alarmed to alert library users of attempted theft.


It is a shame that people do not appreciate what they are given. Librarians try their very level best to ensure that almost every information, knowledge and pleasurable needs of people are met. And yet, people who are so selfish would come to the library to tear off pages and even attempt to steal library materials. This de-values the efforts of librarians, and infringes on the rights of others; especially the right to information.

Our morals are below par and should be upgraded before everything gets out of control. And these moral principles must begin at home. Finally, “Every person must face the practical realities of life — its opportunities, its responsibilities, its defeats, and its successes. How he is to meet these experiences, whether he is to become master or victim of circumstances, depends largely upon his preparation to cope with them — his education” (White: 1998, p.7). So far, it seems we have become victims and our resources have been mis-used. If you do not have something, ask. Our country needs people who are not changed by circumstances but people who change circumstances. Our level of education should show our understanding of things. Common sense must be in use at all times, even when it ceases to be common!


1. White, E.G. (1998). Education. Grantham, England: The Stanborough Press


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