Overdue library book returned after 42 years

GUILDERLAND, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Most of us have returned library books that may have been a bit overdue by perhaps a few days, weeks, and maybe months, but one library patron in Guilderland just returned a book that was checked out when bell bottoms and 8-track players were all the rage.

It was book business as usual at the Guilderland Public Library Tuesday afternoon.

That was until a man walked in with a copy of an old history book, saying he wanted to return it.

“And when he handed it over to the clerk, she noticed that it was 42 years overdue,” said Library Director Tim Wiles from the Guilderland Public Library.

Yes, the book, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” had a stamp reading that it had been due back on April 18, 1974, making it 42 years late.

“I think he was playing it kind of straight and we asked him, you know, what happened here?” Wiles said.

Wiles says the man told the staff he’d lived out of the country for some time and had taken the book with him, but felt a tug on his conscience to return it to its rightful home.

“And his conscience dictated that he bring it back,” Wiles said.

The book has seen a lot of changes over four decades. When it was checked out, the Six Million Dollar Man had just premiered on ABC, the World Trade Center first opened, and the Watergate scandal was bringing down a president.

Wiles posted the story on the library’s Facebook page. One patron said it reminded her of a Shel Silverstein poem, in which the subject is fretting over returning a library book that’s also 42 years overdue.

The staff at the Guilderland Public Library is used to seeing overdue books, but what’s the fine for a book that’s 42 years past due?

“We learned that it was 15,531 days overdue and we computed the fine at 20 cents a day,” Wiles said. “That’s our current fine. [It] Would be $3,106.21.”

They cap fines at $5.00 anyway. So, they instead decided to reward the man’s honesty.

They waived the fee and simply thanked the man, who remained anonymous, adding to the mystery of the book.

“To me, it’s a great story that the value books have to people,” Wiles said. “Most people wouldn’t bother to return a book that’s 42 years overdue, but to me it’s a testament that things are basically good.”

As for the book itself, it may become a part of library history. The director says it might become part of an exhibit there and serve as an example to others, to have a clear conscience and return their books.

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