The good news is the two missing works have been found. Apparently within 80 feet of where they were supposed to be stored, so they never left the library and nobody stole them. They were merely misplaced. In the meantime, police and FBI resources have been spent looking for a “thief” and investigating staff, and two people have lost their jobs. The Boston Public Library has a PR campaign ahead of it to repair the damage to its reputation, particularly amongst potential donors. It is one thing to have something stolen from your institution because it involves a third party. It is quite another to lose something in your possession, because that is a failure on the part of your institution. And all because a staff member clearly did not take the time to put the works back in their proper spot.
When I was a curator, it used to drive me crazy when hours of careful organization and documentation was destroyed because one person removed something to study, and did not put it back in its proper place. As much as I tried to teach staff and volunteers about the importance of putting something back where they exactly found it, there was always that one person. Such practices are particularly important when dealing with collection items that are potentially large in number–photographs, prints and books. Perhaps the Boston Public Library will serve as an example for all who try to train their staff and volunteers in best practices of why current inventories and putting things back in their proper place is so important. I realize this is difficult when facing budget cuts that lead to staff cuts. Which is why making sure your institution adheres to best practices as set forth by the American Alliance despite staff and budget limitations.