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Unattended bag removed from Silent Study Room

Published by Dipa Barua

Today, I paused in writing my final paper in the Silent Study Room at the Belzberg library to take my daughter to get some lunch. I made a calculated risk about what I left behind (notes, library books, a paper copy of my essay, a pen, and a relatively empty backpack) while I took everything valuable with me. I figured that anybody who wandered through the entire library to take what I'd left behind from around other students probably really needed whatever they took, but as I've been making such decisions since my undergrad started in 1994, and I'm finishing my grad work now after time away, I trusted things would be fine.

Instead, when I returned, my bag was missing. I shook my head at myself, but, again, I figured that if someone needed my bag that much, with its few pens and random bits of garbage strewn in it that had gathered over my studies, so be it. It turns out that in this time of stress with end-of-term deadlines, your librarians felt they needed to teach me a lesson that someone might steal my belongings, and took my bag themselves.

I sincerely hope that this was some misguided one-time event, but security for Harbour Centre SFU did not make it seem that way. Nobody needs the added stress of someone deciding they know better than a stranger, especially during the end-of-term. I would have been much more accepting of the incident if someone had stolen my belongings that someone decided to "teach me a lesson".

When I asked the librarian if she had my bag, she smiled at me like I was a simpleton that needed to be taught, and said that things go missing all the time, so I should be more careful. Then she handed me my bag. It was condescending, time-consuming, and unnecessarily stress-inducing.

There are signs posted about not leaving valuables unattended. I did not leave valuables unattended. I took my daughter with me. I also took my electronics with me as they are costly. Your librarians did not need to take it upon themselves to try to teach me right from wrong. People are generally good people; I usually trust them and like to teach my children that people are good people too.

I like the librarians that I interact with and they are quite good at finding me resources or answering my queries. They are friendly and knowledgeable. This was, I believe, outside the line of assistance that I require.


Thanks very much for getting in touch to let me know of your concerns. I'm very sorry for any distress you experienced.

Unattended bags are picked up by Security to secure them and reduce the number of thefts. Security staff don't know whether the bag contains anything of value, so they err on the side of securing unattended property. Unfortunately, there are many thefts of property on campus and most students who leave bags unattended do so unintentionally, without being aware that they might be stolen. Our experience is that students are very upset if their items are stolen and they are very relieved on those occasions when their property has been removed temporarily rather than permanently lost.

I understand from the library staff that your bag was removed by Security as part of their usual campus practice. It was left at the library front counter to make it easier for you to retrieve. The staff member who returned your bag wanted to make you aware of the campus thefts, since our experience is that most students are unaware of the possibility of theft. She did not intend any judgement.

Thank you again for sending your feedback. While I understand your concerns, SFU Vancouver Security will continue to remove unattended property to reduce theft on campus.

Karen Marotz
Head, Belzberg Library