It's been years since we last saw hide or hair of the infamous Fagin family–those rogues among rogues responsible for stealing hundreds of dollars of library books in our county and beyond. I was certainly not expecting one to appear this week, but appear he did.
It happened midway through my afternoon, shift. I had just been straightening up the periodicals section from where it had been attacked and rearranged by The Coot and various handicapped patrons. Afterward, while descending the staircase, I passed some teenage kid and his girlfriend, who were on the way up. Arriving in the front room, I found the circ-desk to be awash with staff-based activity. Mrs. A was seaching something up in our circulation computer while Mrs. C was digging frantically in a filing cabinet.
"Do you know if Karl Fagin is a Seefile?" Mrs. A asked when she saw me. She was referring to the files we keep, organized by year, of deadbeat patrons who've failed to return our books.
"Hell, yes, he's a Seefile," I said. "Why?"
"He's in the building and wants to check something out."
"No way," I said, pointing back over my shoulder. "That was him?"
"Yes. He's got a card from TOWN-D. And the community college."
Ah, yes. Now I remember. Two years back, when we switched over to our new patron circulation computer system, I was assigned the task of going through all the Seefiles and cataloging the worst offenders into a list of banned patrons we were never ever to issue new library cards to. Karl Fagin had been on that list. And, after a year or so under the new system, I rechecked every name on it and noticed young Mr. Fagin had been allowed a card in Town-D–a branch that has nearly as much reason to hate the Fagins as we do. At that time, I'd loaded his patron record up with notes and pop up warnings to the effect that no library in their right mind should ever check anything out to him, because he and his family owe pretty much every library in the area for "lost" books. Yet, here he was again. And not only did he still have a patron record with Town-D, but he'd managed to get one with the community college to boot. Not that this was surprising. Under the old computer system, the classic Fagin modus operandi was to go to one branch, aquire cards for every family member in their massive brood, check out their limit in books from that branch, then head off to another branch and do the exact same thing. Under the old computer system, this was possible because there were no security features to throw up red flags at repeated names. The security features of our newish circulation software, however, has put a serious crimp in their thievery over the past few years. Clearly there are still ways around our defenses.
All the Fagins really have to do to get back into the system is find a library with a new employee who is potentially unfamiliar with their familial empire of monograph mayhem, then send in a pre-driving age kid to fill out a library card application. Being a kid, they won't have to put down a driver's license number. They won't even be expected to have ID. Then, if the computer flags them by name, the kid will claim he or she is a different person with that same name. And because they've moved around a lot over the years, often their listed addresses don't match up to further send up warning signals.
Karl Fagin had apparently done this with the community college and was likely trying to do the same with us, except Mrs. A recognized his surname and double checked the computer in advance. She sent him off to find whatever book he was looking for to give us time to get our evidence in order, because she couldn't exactly ban him or keep him from buying a replacement card if we didn't have such evidence at hand.
And this was really the whole reason behind compiling a list of Deadbeat Patrons Never To Be Issued Cards Again, as I did two years back. Unfortunately, that original printed list, which used to live by the circulation computer, has gone missing. And because the computer I composed it on did not truly have all its files shifted over into the one that replaced it, as our tech guys told us they had, it no longer exists there either. I didn't learn this, though, until I'd joined the search for evidence. Meanwhile, Mrs. C was having to go through all the physical Seefile folders from 2002 back to confirm Karl Fagin's history of treachery. She was still looking when Karl and his girlfriend came back with his book.
Karl Fagin must have known the jig was up, because he didn't even try to press the issue on getting a new library card. He didn't bring up the subject at all. Instead, he passed his book into the hands of his girlfriend who produced her own library card and checked it out for him. There wasn't a thing we could do about it, either. Likely, we'll never see that book again and she'll soon join the ranks of patrons banned from checking out materials at our branch. They'll probably get married, spawn, and within a few years will be sending their brood in to visit us, too.
A minute after Karl and his girl had left the building, Mrs. C found one of his Seefiles from 1992.