I stayed up late last night reading The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman which was written by fellow law librarian, Travis McDade.
Here’s a good description that I found on Amazon:
The Book Thief tells the real life story of Daniel Spiegelman, who took a turn stealing rare books and manuscripts from Columbia University. McDade’s book demonstrates an incredible amount of research into the crime itself, the capture of Spiegelman, nuances of the legal system that affected his sentence, and the court proceedings leading up to Spiegelman’s incarceration. Despite the academic nature of the book, it’s a great read that can be polished off in a few sittings.
As a law librarian, I found this book absolutely fascinating. In the beginning, we learn how Spiegelman broke into the Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML) by climbing up a tiny book lift (dumbwaiter). We learn of Spiegelman’s attempts to sell the documents overseas, followed by his eventual arrest in the Netherlands and eventual extradition back to the U.S. The bulk of the book comprises the tospy-turvey courtroom drama that followed.
My favorite chapter was called, “The Wrath of Columbia,” which could have been aptly subtitled “The Librarian Kicks Butt.” We learn of the amazing efforts of Columbia’s RBML Director, Jean Ashton, to convince Judge Lewis Kaplan of the immense scholarly importance of the rare materials Spiegelman had stolen.
And as one reads from Kaplan’s opinion, its obvious that her work paid off: “You, Mr. Spiegelman, deprived generations of scholars and students of the irreplaceable raw materials by which they seek to discern the lessons of the past and help us to avoid repeating it. That’s what differentiates your offense from a simple theft of money or other easily replaceable property.”
Rather than sticking to the sentencing guidelines (or downwardly departing, as was done with most previous thefts of library materials), Kaplan elects to upwardly depart and sentences Spiegelman to 60 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and 300 hours of community service.
I highly recommend this book, especially to librarians and legal scholars. It’s a fascinating story which has been thoroughly researched and well written.