If you’re one of those individuals who enjoys going to the public library and signing out the latest copy of whatever critically acclaimed book is currently available, then there’s a good chance that at some point you may have kept a book a bit longer than intended, requiring the library to enforce a penalty fee. The nominal amount is usually dependent on how long the book was past due.
Take, for example, the Boise Public Library which just received one of their past due books taken out on November 8th, 1911, 110 years overdue. The individual who returned the book to the library is fortunate, in that the library stopped issuing late fees back in 2019.
However, if those fees were still in effect, the individual who returned the book would have been hit with an $800 past due fine.
According to the Idaho 6 News, library assistant Anne Marie Martin quipped after the book was returned, “so obviously, it was pretty overdue.”
Martin added, “We don’t have any info about where it was from.”
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“Books may be kept two weeks without renewal, unless otherwise labeled,” one of the books inserts said. The book’s checkout record showed it was due back in November, 1911. It was listed as missing in 1912, according to Ms. Martin.
The book, titled “The New Chronicles of Rebecca” by Kate Wiggin, was published in 1907. The individual initially returned the book to the Garden City library, where a staff member noticed that it had a sticker indicating it belonged to the Boise Public Library.
The circumstances of its recovery, however, remain a mystery, noted Lindsey Driebergen, the interim communications manager for the Boise Public Library system.
There are no current records indicating who had checked out the book, or who returned it. One theory is the book may have been tucked away and forgotten for over a century, perhaps in a suit case in an attic, “because it was really well taken care of,” Ms. Driebergen said. “Whoever had the book kept it in ‘immaculate’ condition. The cover was in great shape, all of the pages were crisp, nothing was missing, all the images were there.”
There’s little doubt that 110 years is an unusually long time. However, there have been other instances where an overdue book is returned many decades later. A woman in Wisconsin mailed a book back to the Queens Public Library in New York that was 63 years past due. In 2016, a 72-year-old Manhattan woman returned a book that was almost 60 years overdue.
The library is hoping that someone with knowledge can fill in the blanks and let the staff know the books journey for the past hundred years. “We’re hoping someone comes forward and says, ‘Hey, it was my grandma’s book’,” Ms. Driebergen said. Copies of “New Chronicles of Rebecca” sold for about $1.50 when it was published back in 1907.
“If we had a little bit of understanding as to the history of it, we’d love to hear it,” she added, promising, “There’s obviously no fine or anything that would be implemented.”