Access Services Policy Memo #4
Theft of Library Materials

In accordance with New Jersey P.L. 1985, Ch. 373, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-12 et seq., the following sign shall be posted prominently at the primary entrances and exits of all Rutgers University Libraries:


The above law provides that any individual who purposely conceals, on or off the premises of a library facility, upon his person or belongings (or on another or belongings of another) any library materials shall be initially presumed to have concealed the materials for the purpose of theft of those materials. The act governs the circumstances under which a library employee may detain an individual for the purposes of recovering willfully concealed library material, as follows:

"A law enforcement officer, a special officer, or an employee of a library facility who has probable cause for believing that a person has willfully concealed library material and that he can recover the material by taking the person into custody, may, for the purpose of attempting to recover the material, take the person into custody and detain him in a reasonable manner for reasonable time."

Note that the standard is "probable cause," not mere conjecture. Physical force should never be used by a library employee. Civil and criminal immunity is given to any law enforcement officer, special officer, or library employee who detains a person in accordance with the law.

Where there is probable cause for the arrest of a library patron, a law enforcement officer only may arrest without a warrant. However, any library employee who causes the arrest of a library patron shall be held harmless when the employee has probable cause for believing that the person arrested committed the theft of library material.

Librarian's Cabinet 5/5/86

Access Services Policy Memo #4
Rutgers University Libraries
Theft of Library Materials

Implementation Procedures

If library material is detected by a 3M system, ask the patron if all books have been charged out. Ask to see the books.

If a patron is clearly removing materials not charged out or non-circulating, do not assume theft. In some cases it may be an oversight. Remind the patron to charge out all circulating items and explain that some materials do not circulate.

If it is clear that library material is being intentionally stolen or if the library employee has reasonable grounds for thinking that the material is being stolen (for example, the barcode has been stripped from item; or labels have been removed; or stamped library name has been altered), then:

  1. Ask the person to wait.
  2. Call the supervisor.
  3. The supervisor, or most senior staff member available, should ask for the person's ID card. The ID card should be photocopied, or the individual's name and ID number clearly transcribed. The name and ID number of a Rutgers student under suspicion of theft of University property will be forwarded to the appropriate Dean's office official (responsible for judicial matters) with a description of the incident.
  4. Tell the student that the appropriate authorities will be informed.
  5. Call the University Police only if there is resistance of if a non-student is involved.
  6. Record the name of the person and and NetID of a student and the item involved on a Library Incident Report form.
  7. If the person is not from Rutgers, ask for a driver's license as identification.
  8. Report the incidents involving non-Rutgers students to the University Police.

If Library material is being mutilated:

  1. Try to get a witness.
  2. Confront the individual and retrieve the material. Do not use physical force. Be polite but firm.
  3. Call the supervisor.
  4. Proceed as in 3-8 above.


  1. This procedure should be handled calmly and politely.
  2. As long as physical force is not used, the law protects the library employee when acting with probable cause for believing that something is being stolen. Probable cause should be explained carefully to staff.
  3. The entire public Services staff should be trained to handle this procedure and the issue of probable cause discussed thoroughly.
  4. The responsibility of library employees in protecting library material should be defined clearly.
  5. In the absence of the supervisor, the library employee would be expected to handle the whole incident.
  6. Care should be taken to assume an attitude that is firm but low key. This circumstance will not arise often but it should be handled properly and it should be conveyed to the individual that theft or mutilation of library material is not something we take lightly.
  7. Physical restraint should never be used, nor should a library employee put him/herself in a position to be hurt.
  8. Do not pursue individuals who leave the library during a suspected theft.

Note: In the Robeson Library in Camden the presence of a campus security guard will require special application of these procedures.

Consult the Office of Student Conduct web site ( and select "FAQ." Under Questions from Complainants, select "How do I file a complaint?" where you will find a link to the online form and lists of conduct officers for each campus.

Last updated: October 2010
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