Antiques dealer admits slashing rare book Peabody Increasing Security in Wake of Map Thefts Dennis O'Shea ------------------------------------- Homewood News and Information Security at Eisenhower Library's rare book collections is being tightened after the theft of an 18th-century map by a man who may be linked to similar crimes at other universities. Non-Hopkins researchers wanting to use the collections will now have to present two forms of identification, not just one, said Cynthia Requardt, Kurrelmeyer Curator of Special Collections at the library. The library is also planning to install lockers where readers will be required to stash briefcases, purses, coats and other items that could be used to smuggle out stolen materials, she said. Library managers are re-emphasizing the importance of keeping a close eye on patrons in the Eisenhower's special collections reading rooms at the Homewood campus, the George Peabody Library at the Peabody Institute and the Garrett Library at Evergreen House. "The most important thing to do is to increase vigilance in the reading rooms," Requardt said. "We're going to do fewer other tasks while we're monitoring. Staff can get wrapped up in their own work and not look up at the readers often enough." The library's re-examination of security began after a Peabody Library reader was caught Dec. 7 with four maps sliced from a 1763 history book he had been examining. The man, who had presented a fake University of Florida student photo identity card when registering at the library, admitted the theft and offered several hundred dollars in restitution. Baltimore police suggested that Hopkins strongly consider the offer, said Charles Baughan, assistant director of Eisenhower Library for support services. If arrested, they said, the man--by then identified from his driver's license as Gilbert Joseph Bland of Tamarac, Fla.--could easily make bail and disappear, leaving the university without compensation for damage to the book. After Bland left, library officials discovered, in a notebook he left behind, evidence that he had been to a number of other rare book libraries at universities along the East Coast. They later also discovered that 21 other maps were missing from four 18th- and 19th-century books Bland had examined earlier that day and in a September visit to Peabody Library. Although it is difficult to estimate the financial loss, the total value of the Hopkins books before they were damaged was at least $16,950, probably significantly more, Requardt said. Hopkins contacted the FBI and other universities. Librarians at Duke, Brown and the universities of North Carolina, Virginia and Chicago all say materials are missing in thefts that may be related to the Hopkins case. Several have said maps were taken from books handled by a man using Bland's alias, James Perry. Bland, 46, turns out to be owner, with his wife, of a Florida store specializing in antique maps, collectible commodities that reportedly have skyrocketed in value in recent years. The couple closed the store shortly after the thefts were reported in newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. The FBI is investigating but, as of press time, Bland had not been arrested or charged. "Because of the library staff's vigilance, an individual who has admitted stealing rare materials is now out of business and libraries across the country have been alerted and are improving collection security," said James G. Neal, Sheridan Director of the Eisenhower Library. "Students and scholars should be confident that the Hopkins libraries are committed to the protection and preservation of library materials for teaching and research." Requardt said that, in addition to the new security measures already implemented, she is considering others, including searches of researchers' materials before they leave reading rooms. In general, though, she said, thefts from the university's rare book collections have not been a problem. "The reason we observe or monitor our reading rooms is as much to avoid people putting their elbows on the book and breaking the spine, or underlining as they read, as to keep them from stealing," she said. "Many readers are not used to handling rare materials."
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