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When is it theft?

What kind of jerk would walk off with almost $10,000 worth of books and think that's perfectly OK?

That's what's happened at the Austin Public Library, according to a page-one story published on Monday.

The article by Tony Plohetski and Andy Pierrotti says that this single patron checked out the $125 "Encyclopedia of Libertarianism" back in 2009, and never returned it. Nor has he returned about $10,000 worth of other checked-out books.

Privacy laws prohibit the lilbrary from revealing the name of this scofflaw. Drat. We'd all like to know.

At what point does this kind of abuse constitute theft and require arrest and conviction and prison time?

I guess never. And that's too bad.

Here at the Wimberley library, we have an automated, computerized system that remembers who checked out what when and will not allow someone with an outstanding fine to check anything out without paying up.

I think that's reasonable.

After all, we want materials to be on the shelves as much as possible so others can check them out.

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