Librarian Says Witchy, Occult Books Are Stolen Most

Librarian Says Witchy, Occult Books Are Stolen Most August 17, 2019
pagan witch books stolen library
Pixabay, CC0

The other day, I visited my local library.  I knew where to look the Wiccan, pagan, and witchcraft books, and I had a list of the ones I wanted.  However, even though the computer told me that they were supposed to be on the shelves, I couldn’t find them anywhere.

I asked a librarian if the books could be anywhere else.  She tapped at her keyboard and frowned at the computer screen before her.  “It says we have a lot of them, but that doesn’t mean anything.  Pagan and Wiccan books are the most likely to be stolen. And books about witchcraft and the occult, too.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes.  Mostly teenagers, I think.”

“Hm.  Is that a local phenomenon?  Or does that happen everywhere?”

She shrugged apologetically.  “I’ve heard from other librarians that it happens everywhere.”*

She walked me to the aisle where the books were supposed to be, and lo and behold—there were no books on the shelves whatsoever.

I ended up buying the ones I needed from online sources, but I had a pit in my stomach. I knew that I wanted to write about this.

Why did this happen, in this day and age of easy access to millions of books?

It turns out that the librarian was right, at least, according to other online sources.  Books about the “abnormal,” including witchcraft, rank among the top nine categories according to one web site.  Books about controversial topics ranked as most likely to be stolen according to another website, especially in more conservative places like where I live.  Still another website points out that occult books are among the most likely to be stolen from libraries.  Interestingly, bookstores didn’t report the same problem.

Of course, some teenagers do steal things.  Many of them have little to no money to buy these kind of books (or a credit card to buy them online) and little to no access to a brick-and-mortar bookstore.  It’s also likely that they don’t have access to (or don’t want to steal from) an actual occult/witch bookstore.  A lot of libraries have poor security and no cameras to catch thieves.  Since libraries are tax-funded, thieves may view it as their right to take what they (or more probably, their parents) contributed.

But the theft of pagan and witchy books is a shame because it removes that book from circulation.  To me, it didn’t seem that the library was in a hurry to replace those books that were stolen.  And if a library does an annual inventory, say, it might be several months before the theft is even realized.

Worse still, the person who purchases books for the library might look askance on buying more occult/witchy books, even though they’re so popular that they’re disappearing from shelves.

Black cat with pagan wiccan witch books

What Can Be Done About Teenage Book Theft?

We can choose to foster the occult growth of the young people and provide them with classes and other learning opportunities such as public rituals, gatherings, or meetups.  We can let them borrow our own books (with great caution!).  We could be patrons of the occult/witchy arts and buy the books that were stolen from the library, as many times as is necessary.

Obviously, theft from an entire community is not ideal, and I don’t want to encourage it.  As someone whose book will be hitting bookstores and libraries next year, I’m nervous about this kind of theft because it means that a more limited amount of people will encounter the book.

There Could Be Another Interpretation: Book Burners

As my friend Talmanes says, it’s easy to blame teenagers, and if all of the books from the shelf are gone, it might be more likely that someone is deliberately removing them.  Several other people, including Ashleigh, a former librarian, pointed out that these kind of books are stolen by people who don’t wish for them to be read.  In other words, book burners.

It’s pretty sad when someone is so insecure about their religion that they would stoop to destroying books that give people other options.  Besides, whatever happened to “Thou shall not steal?”  I’m certain that library books apply to that commandment.

I could make a statement about the irony of the situation, but I’ll let it go this time.

BUT, if book burners are indeed stealing all the witchy books, the best option for the library might be to invest in e-books and e-audio books that can’t be stolen.  If possible, some form of greater theft protection for these books would also be good, like an embedded chip.  Yet another option, as Jack, a librarian, pointed out, is to buy every single one of them again and stock the shelves.  This comment made me very happy. 🙂

Dust Jacket

It’s my opinion that people will find their way to witchcraft and the occult, whether there are library books or not.  They’ll find them online or will read about these topics on blogs like this one or on witchblr.  Theft will never keep a witch from daring to know more.

*In all fairness and disclosure, the librarian also said auto repair books were highly likely to be stolen too.

About Astrea
Astrea is the author of Intuitive Witchcraft: How To Use Intuition To Elevate Your Craft (Llewellyn Worldwide). She also leads the fire dancing group Aurora Fire and stirs up magic for the Blessed Be Box, the service that ships a "ritual in a box" with all vegan and cruelty-free items. You can read more about the author here.

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  • modifiedlizard

    If bookstores are not reporting the same problem then maybe there might be a better way of framing the issue than blaming noobie witches. Instead of asking who wants these books we might try asking who would want to prevent other people from having access to them.

    • As a former librarian, occult titles are most often stolen by two groups of people: those who cannot afford to buy their own copies, and those who don’t believe those titles should be in ANYONE’S hands.

      • kenofken

        I suspect most of today’s occult book thieves are in the latter category. When is the last time you saw a teenager with an actual physical, paper book? Most of them see any physical media like books or CDs as anachronisms from a savage past.

        If they’re going to steal books, they can download pirate versions from anywhere. That sort of theft concerns me more because of the sheer scale of it and the fact that it can make being an author untenable.

  • Macha NightMare

    From my volunteer work with Wiccans at San Quentin State Prison and from other volunteers, it appears that books disappear for two primary reasons:. (a) inmates take them and don’t return them, and (b) zealous Xtian prison personnel destroy them. For that reason, the group at SQ keeps Pagan books in their supplies locker and check them out from there, and hopefully return them.

    • Wolf

      Macha, I just wanted to say that I took a workshop with you at Shadowrealm in Columbus, Ohio, many years ago. The Pagan book on death and dying work had just been released. That memorable workshop stuck with me all these years. Thank you.

      • Macha NightMare

        Oh, wow! That would have been in 1998, another century. 😉 I’m glad you found it worth remembering.

  • Wolf

    This theft issue is nothing new. I noticed the same problem and discussed it with my local library over 25 years ago. After a security scanner was installed, kids were just handing the books out the open windows to friends rather than check them out through the system after a scanner was positioned at the only entrance and the books were tagged with coded stickers.

    I even spotted a huge box of “missing” occult library books at an acquaintance’s apartment. To my knowledge, they were never returned. I wrestled with my personal ethics for weeks over whether to ignore a thief, or rat out an acquaintance. And for the record, he was not a teenager, but a grown man in his 30s.

    The fact that book burners might have been the ones emptying the occult section had never occurred to me. Thank you for bringing this issue up.

  • Amber LF

    As someone who started reading occult books back in the late 70s, early 80s, and started more pagan specific studies in the 90s through library materials, I can safely say this isn’t a new issue. It seems these topics are the most interesting yet the most feared or frowned upon. If it isn’t the interested trying to sneak them out then it’s the fearful “soft pulling” them to burn.

  • Soli

    I worked in a mainstream bookstore 20 years ago and one of the areas I oversaw was “new age” We had the divination decks on the shelves, and used to have people take the cards out of the box to steal them. For a time they were in a locked closet and you had to ask, because management didn;t want to do a display behind the cash registers. Their loss, literally.

    Now I work in an academic library and still use my public library. Best tool to combat this sort of theft/censorship is to invest in esoteric ebooks. Impossible to steal from the shelf and impossible never to return because that is all done automatically. Also consider this a plug to check your local library’s ebook app. Mine uses hoopla and there is a bunch of quality work on there.

  • Falkenna

    It’s true at prisons in the UK too — where there are very few fundamentalist Christians. And I have had (mainly Crowleyan) acquaintances tell me they felt entitled to the books they need for The Work, and was unable to dissuade them – we were all a lot younger at the time. (Which takes it back about 40 years.)

  • Aisling Nua Chalian

    Strange. When I worked in a bookstore back in the late 90s, the most common thefts were Bibles. Ironic much?

  • Murigen

    This isn’t something new. When I couldn’t find a book at the library 30 years ago they didn’t blame newbies, they came right out and said it was Christians that didn’t want people to be able to read them. Book stores weren’t having thefts, they were experiencing vandalism and tracks left in books. They also said it was Christians.

  • Earlier this year, I noted in a post I wrote for Eidolon that the only books that hadn’t been stolen from the library were polytheist or pagan books that were very low-key and not identifiable as pagan from the spines (here, if you’re curious: ). When I was growing up, I had to spend my summer job money on books or ask my parents. Thankfully, I was raised Neopagan, so I didn’t have to hide my religion from them like a lot of kids did.