Retired librarian returns book to childhood library after 73 years
This is the worn-out copy of the 1929 children’s book “The Postman” by Charlotte Kuh which Mora Ann Gregg returned -- 73 years late. (Montgomery County Public Libraries Rockville, Md)
Published Wednesday, February 13, 2019 2:40PM EST
As a former librarian, Mora Ann Gregg spent a lot of time dealing with late book fees.
So you can imagine her surprise when she found a library book she checked out from Maryland’s Silver Spring library branch in 1946.
Gregg, now 75, was only three when it was checked out. The book was nearly 27,000 days late.
“I saw the library marking and I thought: ‘I probably should return it,’” she laughed, during a phone interview with CTVNews.ca.
“It was in pretty good shape but it was getting frail. It was published in 1929, so it was already old by the time I’d read it.”
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 only thing I was expecting was perhaps a thank you letter [from the library],” Gregg said.
She felt more compelled to return it because of her career as an academic librarian at the University of Manitoba.
Once the book arrived in the United States last Monday, Montgomery County library employees said they were shocked.
“It was really exciting to get this little book back that is almost a hundred years old and the lovely letter,” Anita Vassallo, acting director of Montgomery County Public Libraries told CTVNews.ca over the phone.
“We were delighted to have it back … it’s great to have this little bit of library history,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything that was checked out from 1946, which was before I was born.”
They later reached out to Gregg and told her they don’t collect overdue fees on children’s books -- with late fees on regular books being capped at US$15.
“This is definitely the oldest thing that’s been returned to us,” Vassallo said. The library is considering having the fragile copy put on display because of its snapshot into the Second World War era.
Gregg explains that the book must have been boxed up when she and her family left the Maryland area back in 1946 . It was around that time her father found a job in London, Ont. working at a now-defunct scrap-metal business.
Throughout her childhood, she remembers her mother reading the “The Postman” over a hundred times, with her older brother occasionally listening in too.
“It was a favourite of mine because I loved the pictures,” Gregg said. Each time she moved, the book seemed to have followed her.”
“I made a joke that maybe I didn’t want to let it go,” she said.
Following her mother’s example, Gregg ended up reading the overdue book to her own daughter, who also became a librarian.
“I think that parents -- or whatever adult is around children, like older siblings -- should read together with kids. I feel it’s really important,” she said. “I realize that parents are really busy now and it’s hard to make time for that.”