When books fly off the shelf at a library, it’s usually seen as a positive trend.
But books about black magic, Satanism, the occult and other related subjects have a tendency to disappear without coming back.
The Pendleton Public Library is just one of many libraries in Eastern Oregon dealing with the issue.
A cursory search for books about tarot cards reveals there’s only one that can be checked out at the Pendleton library, while the other can only be viewed inside the facility.
Of the 36 tarot card books in the Sage Library System, which covers 77 libraries in fifteen counties in Eastern and Central Oregon, 28 percent are considered lost or missing.
While the Sage system does have a small collection of nonfiction books about Satanism, including the Satanic Bible at the Milton-Freewater Public Library, the Pendleton library has no books directly about Satanism.
Pendleton interim library director Mary Finney said the dearth of books like these has been part of a concerted strategy by library staff to slow down the financial loss from stolen books.
Finney said books dealing with these dark subject matters have been disappearing from the shelves since the late 1990s. For a while library staff tried to buy less expensive books to fill the void, but eventually the library stopped stocking titles on those subjects.
According to Finney, other books that see frequent theft are test preparation books and books about mushroom identification.
The Pendleton library’s problems are compounded by a lack of an electronic security system, which would alert staff members if a patron was leaving the library without checking out a book.
Library security upgrades could be part of a Pendleton bond issue in November. But even if successful, Finney said adding electronic identification to the library’s entire catalogue would take a considerable amount of time.
Patrons can still seek out information about the occult or tarot cards through the library’s electronic database, but Finney is saddened that those patrons will have a difficult time taking that information home with them.
Finney said she thinks some patrons might be embarrassed of checking out a controversial book, but she didn’t condone the books’ theft.
“I don’t understand theft. Period,” she said.