Letter: Learned thefts at the British Library

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Sir: I was interested to note that Hugh Aldersey-Williams's article today ('Clever it may be, but what does it do?') on buckminsterfullerene opened with a brief account of an unwelcome and growing problem at this directorate of the British Library (incidentally, entitled the Science Reference and Information Service since 1985).

Theft and mutilation are increasingly affecting all areas of our reference stock, but we do our best to rectify the damage as quickly as possilble. The absence of the article by Professor Harold Kroto et al was recorded at our main enquiry desk on 27 July and replacement pages were ordered immediately.

Such removal of a few pages from an entire issue is normally only brought to our attention by discomfited readers. When an entire issue is stolen, staff as well are often able to note its absence, and we begin a 'missing item' search procedure, leading eventually to replacement.

Readers caught stealing or mutilating our stock are charged for the damage and banned. All this costs time and money, which we would much rather spend on our literature collections.

Yours faithfully,


Deputy Director

Science Reference and Information Service

The British Library

London, SW2

28 September