Anonymous library patron returns books after 52 years

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Detective Bookman, where have you been? You are slipping in your duties. The Associated Press reports that an anonymous Portland State University library patron finally got around to returning two books—after 52 years.

According to The Oregonian, the two books, which were checked out in 1963, were anonymously dropped off along with a handwritten note:

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

"'Borrowed' these books about 1963 for my high-school speech class," the individual wrote. "They have moved with me many times."

"It is now time for them (to) go back home. Outdated – yes – but I'll let you decide their fate now."


Joan Petit, a university librarian, told The Oregonian that the books are so out-of-date that staff are unsure of what to do with them. The Library of Congress cataloging method long replaced the Dewey Decimal System in most library systems, especially in academia.

Petit points out that Portland State libraries no longer fine for overdue books, instead charging a replacement fee after a certain period, but that won't happen here.

"We don't care who it is," Petit said. "We'd just like to say, 'Thank you, and we're sorry they felt so bad.'"

However, she says that she feels empathy for the guilty book user, saying she's been in the same situation herself.


"My family has lost books," she said. "I have kids, and we've actually had to pay a replacement fee. Sometimes librarians can be the worst at returning books on time."

This is hardly the only time a long-overdue book has been returned.

In June, a Maryland library reported that a graphic novel version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was returned after 34 years—only after its borrower found out she would not be fined an exorbitant amount. That same library, Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, received a package in 2010 from a WWII veteran who had accidentally taken a book he'd checked out 65 years earlier when he moved across the country.


In 2013, a professor at Queen's University in Belfast learned he'd had an overdue University of Vancouver poetry book with him for 47 years and returned it when the £8,577.50 fine was waived. He told The Independent, "I suppose the moral of the story if you discover an overdue book is make sure it’s really, really overdue before you think about returning it."

In 2011, a 123-years-overdue book was returned to the Troubeck Institute in Great Britain after it was found in a museum.


However, the record for longest-overdue-book belongs to, who else, George Washington. Months after being sworn in as President in 1789, he checked out two books, including The Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel and a collection of transcripts from the British House of Commons, from the New York Society Library. Washington never returned the books and they weren't found until staff at Mount Vernon discovered them in 2010. They were overdue by 221 years.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on—hop on. Got a tip? Email him:

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