Denver Bibliophile’s Bedbugs Take a Bite Out of ILL Loans

September 30, 2009

Denver Public Library has destroyed 31 books and fumigated four areas of its central library after a bedbug infestation caused, ironically, by a patron dedicated to preserving classic literature.

The contaminated books, which are rare works that were borrowed from DPL through interlibrary loan, had been checked out by Roger Goffeney, a retired poet and minister, who volunteers for the online collection Project Gutenberg. Goffeney checked out the books to compare DPL’s print editions to the digital versions to ensure that the works had been scanned accurately. “Not a one [of the loaned books] belonged to us,” DPL spokeswoman Celeste Jackson told American Libraries.

However, in early September library staff discovered bugs, their larvae, and droppings inside books returned by Goffeney. DPL banned him from the library and asked him to bag his outstanding books and return them outside the library building rather than through the book drop. However, he placed them in the book drop a week later, causing a reinfestation, ABC affiliate KMGH-TV reported September 24. “He flat-out refuses to cooperate and has recontaminated the facility,” DPL Manager of Security and Safety Tom Scott said in the September 22 Denver Post. “At this point, it’s an intentional act,” he asserted, noting that this was the first bedbug infestation he has encountered at DPL in his 34-year tenure there.

Goffeney declined to comment to American Libraries, other than saying he expected the library would sue him for the cost of the books and fumigation, and that he would hold off on making a statement until after his anticipated court appearance. However, he told local media that the bedbugs come from his downtown apartment in Cathedral Plaza, which is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver. “We’ve always had some kind of insect infestation, but it's never been to this degree,” Goffeney told KMGH.

DPL spokesperson Jackson told AL that the replacement cost for the books is estimated at $12,000 and the cost of fumigation at $6,000. She also said the library would likely seek remuneration from Goffeney through a collection agency, per the terms of its borrowers’ agreement. “I have no intention of paying a dime,” Goffeney told KMGH, adding that he’s considering filing a lawsuit to get his borrowing privileges restored.


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