A man was arrested Thursday on charges that he urinated on three shelves of books at the Main Library, causing more than $3,000 worth of damage to the Philosophy of Language section.
A library employee reportedly heard a “tinkling sound” on the third floor Thursday and then found 33-year-old Aton Cole in the act of peeing, Officer Albie Esparza said.
Cole, a San Francisco resident who library employees say is known as a nuisance in the Civic Center building, had piddled “all over the book shelf and all over the books,” Esparza said.
Police were called and Cole was booked on suspicion of vandalism and traffic warrants, Esparza said. Prosecutors on Friday charged Cole with one misdemeanor count of vandalism. He's expected to be arraigned Monday.
The library's staff inspected all the sullied materials and determined the extent of the damage, said Michelle Jeffers, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Library system.
“We will have to determine whether the books can be cleaned or reused or will need to be replaced,” Jeffers said Friday.
A library employee who wished to remain anonymous believes Cole might have urinated on books on multiple occasions.
“For a few months now, we have been finding whole shelves of books on the third floor covered with an unidentified sticky substance,” the employee wrote in an email to The San Francisco Examiner.
The employee added that Cole had once been suspended from the main branch for a month for urinating on the carpeting in the third-floor alcove of the African American Center.
Police could not confirm those reports.
On Friday, caution tape and empty shelves remained in the area that had been soiled.
Librarians joined in on the cleaning job, Jeffers said, as custodians only have responsibility for cleaning the shelves.
Librarians are trained on how to handle materials such as urine, she said.
“There's a whole protocol” that includes wearing gloves and using hand sanitizers before and after cleaning, Jeffers said.