Children's books disappear from Port Orchard library.

Curious George is gone, as are the books penned by noted children’s author Eric Carle.

In all, 1,300 children’s picture books have disappeared from the Port Orchard library over the past two months, books valued at $23,000.

“It’s horrible,” said library branch manager Kathleen Wilson. “It’s picture books, the heart of the library, sharing books with young children. This has a big impact on our collection.”

Wilson said the books represent nearly 20 percent of the branch’s collection of children’s picture books.

What Wilson suspects is a theft was discovered when the library noticed that missing books couldn’t be located. Finally, the branch did a complete inventory looking at every title that should be on the shelves, crossed-checking them with the books that were checked out, and the loss was discovered.

She thinks the bad economy led to the thefts. “There is a market for used books,” she said, adding that many of the missing books are new ones and more valuable. Wilson said no particular author was targeted.

She said no other books are missing, adding that it would be easy to walk out with the picture books since many patrons check out bags of the popular books.

“I can’t imagine who would do such a thing,” said Wilson. “Stealing from children. The books are available for free for anyone who wants to check them out.”

She said the average children’s picture book can be checked out 50 times before they wear out, “and now there’s 50 families who can’t read them.”

Since the books disappeared, the library has banned bags and backpacks from the children’s area of the branch, instead offering baskets.

The library has reported the theft to the Port Orchard Police Department.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com