Police Investigate Book Vandalism in Northern Alabama Libraries

Police Investigate Book Vandalism in Northern Alabama Libraries

Vandals have ruined hundreds of books belonging to public libraries in Huntsville, Athens, and Decatur, Alabama, since March 2004. Sandy Sherman, director of Decatur’s Wheeler Basin Library, said in the March 1 Decatur Daily News that police believe the culprit or culprits are pedophiles who “razor the pages out and take the faces of children and put them on the nude pictures of men and women and fantasize.” Decatur Police Lt. Vince Baer said the favorite subjects appear to be boys and girls engaged in athletics.

James Loyd, head of the children’s section, said staff have discovered 494 books with one or more pages removed. “We now have thousands of dollars of damage,” Sherman added. “We have also found he has been in the adult section, books on coaching children or on sex. What was really terrible is these were the new books.”

Beth Dean, director of youth services for the Huntsville–Madison County Public Library, said library officials began an investigation last fall after being alerted by librarians at the Athens-Limestone Public Library. She said in the March 2 Huntsville Times that some 800 books are damaged, while Athens director Susan Todd estimated about 400 books were vandalized in her library last summer.

Decatur police said they have a suspect, but because library circulation records are destroyed once the books are returned, they lack sufficient evidence to make an arrest. An initial investigation of Huntsville’s library records led to a 26-year-old local man last October, but Dean said she understands the man—who has been barred from checking out any more books—has moved.

Posted March 4, 2005.