Sunday, July 30, 2006

Libraries Suspect Smiley in More Missing Map Cases

The Hartford Courant (which has been doing an exemplary job in coverage of the Smiley case, I must say) reports today that the libraries hit by map thief E. Forbe Smiley are beginning to realize that the thefts uncovered by the FBI may be only the tip of the iceberg.

Kim Martineau writes "The British Library, Yale and now Harvard are reporting more maps missing from their collections than those the map dealer has admitted to taking. The most valuable fall within Smiley's area of interest - early maps of North America - and several are copies of maps Smiley has already admitted stealing. The British Library suspects Smiley of taking three additional maps and has hired a high-powered Philadelphia lawyer to push its case. Privately, Yale and Harvard have also expressed concern."

On Friday, Harvard announced that five more maps are missing from its collections; the BL and Yale had made similar notices previously. Martineau reports that the libraries will meet with the FBI on August 7 to "sort out loose ends" before Smiley is sentenced; these new concerns will certainly be a part of that meeting.

Smiley's lawyer claims that his client has been entirely cooperative in the FBI's investigation, that he didn't steal the additional maps and is being scapegoated by the libraries. The FBI says they're happy to look at new information brought forth by the libraries, but much of the evidence is circumstantial, as Martineau outlines in depth.

I think it's entirely possible if not likely that Smiley did make off with at least some of the additional maps. However, the lack of proof only speaks more loudly to the need for institutional control by the libraries over their materials so that future Smileys won't have such any easy job of it.