Better Late Than Never

March 8, 2017

We’ve all had those books that we forgot to return to the library at one time or another.  Some of you may know all too well the plummeting sensation of clearing out your bookshelves, only to discover a library book sitting there, glaring at you from its dusty hidey hole. But what do you do with it? Could the library possibly want it back at this point?

The case grows even trickier when it involves books that haven’t been returned in more than 40 years.  Recently I picked up my little cart of damaged materials that the circulation staff sets aside for me to reorder and discard.  One particular book on the cart caught my eye.  A member of the circ staff had written, “Check out the note: fun story”. The book is a 1946 edition of The Great Chicago Fire with the subtitle “Described in seven letters by men and women who experienced its horrors, and now published in commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the catastrophe.”

But the real treasure is the letter tucked inside.

It reads:

June 19, 2016

Dear EPL,

In 1972 or 1973, I believe, I took out this book on a friend’s card. I had to write a term paper on this subject in high school. When I finished the report, I returned all the books I had taken out. I was unaware that one of the books was missing, and it wasn’t until decades later that I found out my sister had picked it up when she was moving away from home. She returned to Chicago several years ago and I was helping unpack and came across this book.

I thought of throwing it out, yes, but it would have been the wrong thing to do. This book is stamped Chicago Historical Society, and I didn’t way to throw this out in case it was the only one. So I am returning it and hope to pay for the book. And want to credit the friend’s library account, if possible.

Please forgive the mistake. It was completely unintentional.


Ann O. Nymous

Forgiven, “Ann”.  It could happen to anyone, though I doubt everybody would take the time and effort to write a note like this.

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