'I’m not a scoundrel': Library book returned 32 years late with apology
A library book 32 years overdue has been returned anonymously with a handwritten apology that the borrower is not a “scoundrel.”
The copy of Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was due on January 6, 1987, but was only returned to the Northern District branch of Toronto Public Library last week.
At the current overdue fine rate of 35 cents a day, the fine for the book would be more than $4,000. However, Toronto’s library service caps its fines at about $14.
“I was surprised at the good shape it was in actually,” librarian Sarah Walcz told CTV Toronto.
“The book is slightly older than me, by about six months.”
Inside the front cover of the Hemingway classic was a hand-stamped due date card along with the letter.
“I am a believer that it’s never too late, so I’m returning this book,” it read.
“I can’t imagine what the overdue fine would be, (considering this is 32 years and 72 days late), that’s why I’m doing this anonymously.
“But I’m not a scoundrel, so I promise that I have or that I will make a gesture towards the library.”
Walcz said the library appreciates the pledge, which will fund programs including children’s outreach and ESL lessons for newcomers.
She added that she thinks the borrower still uses the branch, which is why they left the note anonymously.
“Judging by the note, they were pretty embarrassed,” she said. “It’s likely that they continue to use this branch and they just didn’t want their identity known.”
The late return of the Hemingway tome was trumped by a tardy borrower in Moncton, N.B., last month.
Librarian Chantale Bellemare said a senior was cleaning his house and discovered a volume of self-help book “Relax and Live,” 63 years after it was borrowed.
Bellemare said the book was due back in May, 1956 and at two cents per day, the late fee would be $459.
Luckily for the senior, the library waived the fine.
And in February, former librarian at the University of Manitoba Mora Ann Gregg, found a library book she checked out in 1946 from a branch in Maryland, U.S.
Gregg found the worn-out copy of the children’s book “The Postman” by Charlotte Kuh on her book shelf, while she was dusting her Toronto apartment.
She then mailed the book back to her childhood library and attached an apologetic note.
The library doesn’t collect overdue fees on children’s books -- with late fees on regular books capped at US$15.
---- With files from CTV Toronto’s Scott Lightfoot and Katherine DeClerq