Iowa Rare-Book Theft Shakes Library World

DON'T expect libraries to post armed guards around their rare-book collections, but last week's early-morning raid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation has shaken the library world just the same. On March 20, FBI agents descended on a house in Ottumwa, Iowa, and arrested Steven Cary Blumberg for interstate transportation of stolen goods. Inside were nine rooms filled from floor to ceiling with rare books, says David Schoonover, curator of rare books at the University of Iowa.

Mr. Schoonover says he was ``somewhat amazed and surprised'' at the quantity and quality of the collection. By one count, 11,000 rare books were stolen from libraries all over the country - or about one-seventh of Schoonover's collection and perhaps the biggest illegal hoard in the country.

Unfortunately, rare-book thefts are all too common, says William Moffett, president of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Previous publicized thefts already have caused libraries to upgrade their security considerably, he adds.

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