In the Media

Librarian who stole rare books escapes prison

PUBLISHED October 26, 2006

A librarian who stole more than 500 antiquarian books worth ?175,000 from Manchester Central library, and then offered several for sale on an internet auction site, was given a suspended jail sentence yesterday. Norman Buckley, 44, began his thefts after breaking up with his long-term girlfriend. He made more than ?11,000 from sales of books on eBay but hardly spent any of the money, claiming the sales gave him a buzz.

Among books he stole was a 16th century Geoffrey Chaucer, worth ?35,000, and a volume of political works by Coleridge, Shelley and Keats. He also took broadsides - newssheets detailing the history of Manchester - including one that contained an account of food riots in 1757.
An antiquarian books expert in Somerset became intrigued when he saw a copy of John Donne's Elegies, from 1654, for sale on eBay. He saw the Manchester Libraries seal on it, then contacted the library. Staff subsequently contacted police.

Buckley, who worked part-time in the local studies and archive team, was arrested at his home in Hulme, Manchester, in March, on suspicion of theft, and dismissed from his job. When police raided his flat they found 400 books.

Buckley pleaded guilty in August to 10 specimen thefts and asked for 445 offences to be taken into consideration. At Manchester crown court yesterday, he was ordered to perform 250 hours' community service. Judge Clement Goldstone said his 15-month jail term was suspended for two years because he had helped police to find the books.

Denise Fitzpatrick, for Buckley, said he had become depressed after his girlfriend left him: "Norman Buckley's motivation for taking these books was not financial. It was an emotional release."

Chief Inspector Mark Lee, of Greater Manchester police, said later that the cooperation of the antiquarian book trade and people who purchased books from Buckley was appreciated. Fortunately 92% of the books had been recovered.