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Library worker placed on leave as art remains missing

No charges filed; search continues for missing art

The Special Collections lobby at the Boston Public Library.
The Special Collections lobby at the Boston Public Library.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The Boston Public Library employee removed from her post amid an investigation of two missing prints is a longtime librarian who oversees some of the BPL’s most valuable treasures, officials said Thursday.

A library spokeswoman declined to say why Susan L. Glover, 66, was placed on paid administrative leave April 20 — several days after library officials learned the prints by Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer had vanished from the central branch in Copley Square.

Glover has not been charged in connection with the case, which involves art valued at more than $600,000. She is among a small group of people with access to the secure area where the prints were stored, a library spokeswoman said.

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At the heart of the investigation is whether the vanished prints were stolen or if they were simply misfiled amid a collection of about 200,000 prints.

Glover joined the library staff in 1999 after stops at libraries in Chicago, Providence, and elsewhere, according to a resume provided to the Globe. Named keeper of special collections in 2007, Glover earned $105,451 in 2014.

Glover did not answer the door at her Charlestown apartment Thursday.

Relatives in Maine declined to speak with a reporter about the librarian, who is a member of the board of directors of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, which links 16 repositories of New England history and also provides grants for research on the region’s history.

Friends and colleagues in Boston also declined to discuss Glover, but John Zukowsky, a retired museum executive who worked with Glover at the Art Institute of Chicago, recalled her as efficient and trustworthy.

“This is not her doing,” Zukowsky said, offering that perhaps something had been misfiled — a common occurrence, he said. “I find it hard to believe she was behind the theft. . . . she’s been in this profession for decades now and nothing has come up.”

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Glover has publicly expressed her passions for rare books — Shakespeare’s First Folio gives her goose bumps, she wrote on the library’s website — and for fast cars.

“I never get behind the wheel of a Corvette without my heart beating a little faster and my smile beaming a bit broader,” Glover told Boston Magazine earlier this year, and an accompanying photograph featured the fashionable Glover behind the wheel of a late-model Stingray convertible.

The investigation into the missing prints includes Boston police, the FBI, and the US attorney’s office.

The case has raised questions about security and oversight at the library, where officials initially responded to the April 8 discovery of the missing Dürer engraving by searching the collection to see if it had been misfiled, only to find that a Rembrandt self-portrait had also vanished.

Officials are auditing the print collection to determine whether more items are missing.

“This is alarming to me and I have a lot of questions about a lot of things,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh told reporters Thursday. “A lot of questions need to be answered. You just can’t misplace $600,000 in prints.”

Security at the library is so shoddy, said one former member of the library’s board of trustees, that the only surprise was that more had not been stolen.

“The entire security system in the library, for objects and paintings, was extremely lax,” said the former trustee, who is not authorized to discuss the case and so asked not to be named.

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“There’s no inventory, there’s no cameras, there’s no security,” said the former trustee, who described telling administrators about the potential for theft years ago. “Every Tom, Dick, and Harry could easily put something in his knapsack.”

Law enforcement officials have expressed the possibility that the disappearance of the prints is an inside job.

The case has been assigned to Assistant US Attorney Robert Fisher, the same prosecutor overseeing the investigation into the 1990 theft of $500 million worth of masterworks from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation into the missing library prints.

A spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office declined to comment Thursday.

If the prints turn out to have been stolen, anyone charged in connection with such a theft would face significantly steeper penalties if the case is brought in federal court, rather than state court.

Under Massachusetts law, larceny of property valued at more than $250 is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The federal statute governing art theft carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for anyone convicted of stealing or knowingly receiving “an object of cultural heritage” from a museum or other public institutions.

Brian T. Kelly, a former federal prosecutor, said the possibility of federal charges “certainly increases the consequences for the thief,” and also gives prosecutors leverage during the investigation.

“The higher the punishment, the more likely it is that someone will cooperate with them and tell the whole story,” Kelly said.

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According to library spokeswoman Melina Schuler, library workers discovered the Dürer missing April 8, and notified police. One week later they discovered the Rembrandt was missing. Evans and Walsh were both then alerted to the missing items. A police report was filed April 29, and the Boston police Anti-Corruption Unit launched an investigation.

The Dürer engraving is valued at over $600,000; the Rembrandt self-portrait is worth $20,000 to $30,000, officials said.

Recently, the library enlisted an independent security firm, KCMS Safety and Security Solutions, to work with its staff to assess security systems in the print department and associated collections, and to make recommendations for upgrades, Schuler said.

The artwork was stored in a print room closed to the public. Patrons who want to view items must complete a card with personal information.

Then, a staff member — roughly 10 to 20 staff members are authorized — retrieves the items from the print room, which is accessible only via staff elevators.

Patrons view the items in a reading room that is locked and tucked in the rear of the rare books section, past glass cases that hold ancient books. They are not allowed to bring bags into the room, and they are monitored by a librarian.

Michael Bello, John R. Ellement, and Sean P. Murphy of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Nestor Ramos can be reached at nestor.ramos@globe.com. Shelley Murphy can be reached at shelley.murphy@globe.com. Jan Ransom can be reached at jan.ransom@globe.com.