Book returned to Attleboro library – 78 years late

(credit: Attleboro Public Library)

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) – Better late than never?

Earlier this week, a book was returned to the Attleboro Public Library. That wouldn’t usually be newsworthy – except the book was due 78 years and 10 months ago.

“A gentleman was cleaning out a friend’s basement and saw that the book had our markings and a due-date card, and he thought we would want it back,” Amy Rhilinger, the library’s deputy director, told Eyewitness News.

According to the library’s Facebook page, the book – “The Young Lady at Home,” a 19th-century tome by T.S. Arthur – was due on Nov. 21, 1938, during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt and before World War II.

“I’ve been here 15 years – we’ve never had anything returned the length of time that this item was,” Rhilinger said. “We were hysterical. I mean, really? 1938?”

As for its condition? “Disrepair is an understatement,” Rhilinger laughed.

“It was definitely not a book that we would be able to ever circulate again, or even put on a shelf near other books,” she said. “But what we thought was awesome was, here’s this guy who totally respects the fact that the library collects items for everyone to share, and in order to make it the democracy that it is, you bring things back.”

Based on the library’s current policy of a 10-cent daily fine for overdue items, the penalty for returning the book more than 78 years late would be about $2,800. But heirs to the Depression-era patron who failed to return it don’t need to worry.

“There’s no fine attached,” Rhilinger said. “We have no way of finding who had it out. Obviously, we didn’t have computerized checkout systems back in the day. So that information is long gone.”

Not that the librarians are judgmental about overdue books, despite what guilty patrons may think.

“We have our own fair share of overdue library items, and we’re here every day – so we get it,” Rhilinger said.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook