August 10, 2008


I think one reason our library director considered the stakeout a viable option for dealing with a series of thefts was that Oberlin actually has a history of apprehending library thieves (which is a whole other amazing/ridiculous story).

James Shinn, who got his 15 minutes of infamy in the early 80s, was caught by a librarian at the Oberlin College Library in 1981. He had stolen 480 rare library books with a combined value of $35,000. Shinn is a nerdy-interesting Google if you are curious. A brief 1981 NY Times article describes the manhunt. Besides inspiring librarians in general to beef up security for special collections, Shinn also gave librarians at Oberlin a hearty sense of their own crime-fighting capabilities, thus enabling me to have my very own brush with library covert ops nearly 25 years later.

The Oberlin College Library has a special room named for James Shinn and plastered with news stories of his crimes and capture. This room is not open to the public and is rarely visited by staff. The Shinn Room is the library’s Executive Washroom. I mean, where better to study a rich history of library heists and library heroism than a library director's bathroom? Nowhere, I suppose.

[Something I discovered along the way:
books about people who are crazy about books.]

P.S. Mr. Shinn, if you Google yourself regularly, thanks, and no hard feelings!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article. I am James Shinn's daughter. I do google him on occasion. There once was a course at Loyola Law School which centered on his case and subsequent trial.