This Guilt-Ridden Man Returns Library Book 50 Years Overdue
In 1968, a textbook for Shakespeare's Macbeth went missing from Walton High School in New York State. This is the sort of mystery no one expected to see resolved, probably because it wasn't a mystery at all. Everyone knows library books go missing. It's just that, after a certain point, nobody expects them to come back.
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Steve Rowell checked out the textbook in his senior year of high school, quickly forgetting about the rental as he went off to college. When his parents moved, they boxed up his possessions. And when his parents passed away, Rowell opened the boxes. That was when he discovered the mistake of a lifetime (or a lifespan): a fifty-year-old library book that he had never even thought to return. "I felt like, well it should probably go back to the school," Rowell admitted, reflecting upon his unintentional act of youthful shenanigans. "I felt a little guilty about, well keeping it for 50 years. There was only one way to alleviate the guilt: Rowell sent the book back to the library.
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But absolution didn't come as easily as he had expected. “It’s so old! I mean, published in 1959 so it’s pretty cool,” said librarian Katie Cuomo, who may or may not have been born when Rowell checked out the book. “We do use Macbeth, we do use various works of Shakespeare, but this isn’t our current textbook.” The poet Virgil only said the descent into hell is easy; he never said it was easy to climb back out. Rowell would need to pay for his redemption—so that's exactly what he did.
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He sent the library some money... but that only made him feel guiltier. "Someone calculated that it should probably be more like 3,000 dollars for the period of time that it was out," Rowell confessed, less impressed with himself and his gesture. "I'm feeling guilty about the donation now because it was only $100 that I sent them." Thankfully, the library has forgiven him—whether or not he's forgiven himself. Since libraries are notoriously on the cutting end of a budget cut, librarian Cuomo was probably to get funding by even the strangest means: “I’ll be purchasing some books that the children have asked, that they want to read,” she commented.
Rowell may feel guilty about giving only $100, but he also gave the gift of a valuable lesson. Now a sign hangs over the entrance of the library with this message: “It’s never too late to return an overdue book.”
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