Salem Police and Corban’s Library staff are working together this week to get to the bottom of a suspected robbery.

Last Thursday, Chief of Security Mike Roth saw what appeared to be college-aged men speed off in a vehicle without Corban stickers, leaving a stack of Bible and psychology books behind. A quick confirmation with the library verified that these books had not been checked out through the library’s circulation system. This was the first of many “red flags,” said Bekah Penrose, a student library worker on duty at the time.

While replacing the discovered books, Penrose discovered that the room they belonged in was in chaos.

“I’d never seen shelves get so cluttered,” she said. “After this we both looked up and down all the stacks and discovered many more piles of misplaced books. [They] were all newer, nicer books, and they had been pulled from all different sections… it had the markings of someone making a sweep of potential books to steal.”

Corban University Library
Photo by Jenna Kost

Earlier that day, a man with a barcode scanner had approached Penrose about receiving donated books for an English school in Russia. She referred him to Library Director Floyd Votaw. At the time, nothing seemed suspicious, but now they weren’t so sure.

“Mike Roth told us that the website listed on the business card the man had given Mr. Votaw was fake,” Penrose said. “They [are] almost certain he had been involved in the possible theft.”Chief Information Officer Brian Schmidt added that “It is being treated as a burglary.”

Currently,  library staff are conducting an entire inventory check, and should know within the week how many books are actually missing.

Schmidt described the men’s system as “an old trick,” and assumes that they were planning on selling the books on Amazon.com for some quick cash. The plot may have been going on for some time, but was only discovered on Thursday.

Both Schmidt and Roth are asking students to be more “alert and aware” while on campus. Although Corban is known for their warm and friendly atmosphere, they encourage students to not allow Corban be a naïve campus.

“People asking to buy or trade for new books, or people asking strange questions or acting strangely need to be referred to campus safety,” said Roth.

Penrose described the event as “unsettling.” She has always seen Corban as a relatively safe campus. After something like this happens, “you know that your safe zone has been violated.”

Any suspicious people or activity should be reported immediately to Campus Security, who will take care of asking “the tough questions,” said Schmidt. “If you see something that doesn’t make sense, don’t be afraid to tell someone.”