Late fee calculated at £ 2,847 as library book returned after 73 years

A library book was returned over 73 years late.

Rupert Hughes’ Stately Timber – an adventure tale set in Boston, USA – should have been returned to what was then the central library of Dunfermline Public Libraries at Abbot Street on November 6, 1948.

However, staff at Fife Library, now Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries (DCL & G), were stunned to receive a package containing the book last week.

He had been found by the borrower’s daughter and returned from Cromarty to the Black Isle more than seven decades late.

Donna Dewar, Cultural Services Assistant at DCL & G, said: “I burst out laughing when I opened the package, I couldn’t believe it.

“We had a book returned to our Rosyth branch after 14 years recently, which we found pretty amazing, but it was way beyond anything we’ve heard of.”

Library book returned over 73 years late
Library book returned over 73 years late

She added: ‘For a bit of fun we’ve calculated how much might have been owed in fees and that comes to £ 2,847.

“He came up with a lovely letter from the borrower’s daughter who might have given us a few details.”

OnFife Libraries have been granted a late fee amnesty throughout the pandemic to encourage members to return the books.

In the letter, the borrower’s daughter explained that her late father lived in Thornton in Fife in 1948, but she will never know if he simply forgot to return Stately Timber or chose to keep it.

She also wrote: “I find it fascinating to see the release dates of this book, during the last year of WWII and the end of the war between stamps marked by librarians.

“Life goes on around important historical events.”

The inside pages of the book show the date stamps – and the notice that “This book can only be kept for 14 days”.

Christine McLean, Head of Cultural Heritage and Welfare at OnFife, said: “We are delighted to have received it – especially as this week is Book Week Scotland as we do so much to promote our libraries – and we look forward to finding a special place to display the book and the story of his journey, in our Local Studies section at DCL & G. “

The Guinness World Record for the most late library book is held by a return to Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge, England, which was borrowed in 1668 and returned 288 years later.

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