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How Long is Too Long to Return a Library Book?

There are two major rules to follow when it comes to the library. One, you must be quiet. And two, return the books you borrow on time. We get it, things happen and maybe you forgot to drop off the book that’s been sitting on your shelf for a few weeks. But what happens if you keep forgetting? When does it become too overdue? After awhile, is it okay to just forget about the whole thing?

Recently, The Times Tribune reported that a man found a children’s book his father borrowed from their local Pennsylvania library in his basement. The stamped due date: Dec. 2, 1941. Robert Lockman Jr. returned the book, Val Rides the Oregon Trail by Sanford Tousey, to the library, feeling that it was what his father would have wanted him to do. At the 1941 overdue rate of 2 cents per day, Lockman would have owed the Osterhout Free Library $554.

While that sounds like a pretty steep fee, it could have been worse. Now overdue books can cost up to 25 cents a day, which can add up quickly the longer you wait to return it. Luckily for Lockman, the librarians had a good laugh over his father’s book and decided not to charge him.

Image courtesy of Osterhout Free Library

But the question remains, why didn’t his father return the book? When the story got around, someone made the point that five days after Lockman Sr. was meant to return the book, the United States entered World War II due to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Probably very few people were thinking about overdue books at the time.

It’s not just us who forget to return books, some of the most famous people in history are guilty of it too according to The Week. Five months into his presidency, George Washington took out a copy of The Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel from the New York Society Library and never returned it. The staff at Washington’s Mount Vernon estate returned the book after finding it in 2010. Had he been alive, Washington would owe the library about $300,000. Even if it was the greatest book of all time, we wouldn’t want to face that fee. 

From Lockman’s story we see that sometimes it’s easy to forget the little things like stopping by and returning a library book. You will always have things to do and more books to read. But if you think that it’s been way too long to make the walk of shame up to the front desk, you can be like the people at Mount Vernon and still make the effort to give it back, even over 200 years later.  

 

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