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Human Interest

Florida Librarians Invent Fake Patron to Save Books from Being Dumped

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Chuck Finley isn’t who you think he is.

The real Chuck Finely is a retired MLB pitcher (left-handed), who was active from 1986-2002, primarily as a “dependable” — according to Wikipedia — thrower for the Angels.

But there’s another Chuck Finley, in Sorrento, Florida. This one is an insatiable reader, checking out 2,361 books at the East Lake County Library over a nine-month period. He’s also totally made up.

The fictional Finley’s reading list — consisting of titles ranging from John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row to Ann Fullick’s Why Do My Ears Pop? — was the concoction of George Dore, the library’s branch supervisor, and library assistant Scott Amey and consisted of titles in danger of being purged from the library’s shelves. Dore told the Orlando Sentinel — who broke the story — that he wanted to avoid having to later repurchase books removed from the shelf, and alleged the practice is common among libraries.

That’s a serious accusation, because nine city-run libraries that are part of the county’s system receive funding based on circulation levels. However, the six county libraries — including Dore’s — don’t get a cut of the approximately $1 million budget doled out to the city libraries every year, so the scheme technically had no financial motive — it simply meant saving the titles.

But an anonymous source tipped the Lake County clerk of courts’ inspector general’s office to the pair’s ruse, and the county has since ordered a system-wide audit of its libraries.

More and Amey’s scheme had one serious flaw besides the sheer volume of the fake Finley’s library record: Dozens of books were checked out and then in again in the same hour, which had the desired effect — the East Lake County Library’s circulation increased by nearly 4 percent thanks to Finley — even if it was an easy paper trail to follow.

Dore’s interviews with the inspector general’s office allege that other libraries “have had ‘dummy’ patron cards and institutional cards” and that “there was a lot of bad blood between the libraries because of money wars.”

Dore has been placed on administrative leave pending a hearing. The inspector general’s office has recommended termination, which Dore is fighting. On the discipline form recommending his dismissal, he calls the decision “an overreaction to an action that only had one purpose and that was to save items for potential patron’s use.”

Neither Dore nor Amey would answer questions about the story, according to the Sentinel, but it was apparently Amey who contributed Finley’s — who was also furnished with an address and driver’s license — nom de guerre. No word on whether he’s an Angels fan.

(By the way, if this whole thing reminds you of the story arc in The Wire where McNulty invents a serial killer in order to scare the city — and the Baltimore Police Department — into providing adequate resources for his own investigation, you’re right.)