It's not a question of "who done it," although a lot of such material is involved. The names of the suspects are known, some very well known. The case of the missing library property centers more around why they "done it," and, more importantly, when will the items be returned.

Like lending libraries the world over, the Tamaqua Public Library offers its patrons the use of thousands of books, books on audio, compact discs, DVDs and more. All you need is a library card. The vast majority of library patrons return their goodies on time, but there are way too many who seem to forget where the items belong. There are also those whose attitude seems to be uncaring that someone else is being deprived of the same enjoyment that comes from reading a good book or watching a good movie.

Well, not returning items to the library is actually a criminal offense in Pennsylvania. Legally, borrowers could be prosecuted, but most libraries, including the one in Tamaqua, prefer not to go that route unless absolutely necessary. Libraries are governed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The theft of library items is a summary offense, but repeat offenders could face felony charges. Anyone convicted would be subject to paying a fine as well as court costs at the summary level. Felony offenders could face jail time. But no one wants to see that happen, especially Tamaqua Librarian Gail Heath.

Libraries have been feeling the same money pinch as most Americans. Library board members would prefer spending the limited funding on books and such, rather than on legal procedures. Patrons with overdue articles must be notified by certified mail or by phone, causing a potential financial hardship to any library whose overdue items number in the hundreds. Librarian Heath also notes, "Sometimes people move without leaving a forwarding address, or their phones have been disconnected, leaving us with few options. One of those options is publishing the names of the violators on our web site or in the newspaper. We feel most of our patrons have simply overlooked returning the items and have no real intention of stealing our property. We would prefer not to embarass them, at this time. All we really want is for those items to be returned so other patrons can enjoy them too."

All library property is clearly marked as such, with stamps on the page edges (visible when the book is closed), or on the flyleaf or inside jacket covers; labels on the spines; even bar codes and memorial plates in some cases. Such markings are hard to miss. All you have to do is look for them.

Currently, more than 300 items are missing from the shelves at the Tamaqua Library instead of being enjoyed repeatedly. Some of the books have been missing since 2005 and library officials would like to get them back. When doing a bit of Spring cleaning, library patrons are asked to be on the lookout for any overdue items.

Anyone who has overdue Tamaqua Public Library owned items may return them, free of fines, during Amnesty Week, April 11-18. This is being held as part of National Library Week. A second Amnesty Week is held every Fall. Library hours are Monday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, noon to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call (570) 558-4660.