Recently, I found out what a library is. It’s like a bookstore, but you don’t pay for the books. Unless, of course, you keep said books longer than the library allows. Frankly, it’s a sweet deal. Until you forget to return a book for 110 years or so.
This story of the extremely overdue library book comes to us from Idaho, famous for its thrilling literary history: Hemingway spent the worst years of his life in Ketchum before blowing his brains out. Also, Ezra Pound was born there, then decided to live outside the US for most of his life. Something to think about.
But now, the Gem State has yet another story to add to its precious literary trove. According to KTVB in Boise, a book published in 1907 called New Chronicles of Rebecca, a series of short stories about a girl who lives on a farm in Maine. Again, this was before TV existed. In Idaho. The book was checked out on November 8, 1911. It was returned… in 2021.
To be fair, I’m also a slow reader. But I think if you read a word a day of the book, you’d still finish sooner than this person did. So, who was this person who decided “better late than never” and dropped off the book?
We don’t know!
Someone anonymously dropped the book into the returns and the front desk noticed it didn’t have the modern library markings. Anne Marie Martin, a library assistant, said the book was in great shape. All the words were legible and the pages crisp.
Perhaps the mystery reader was worried about the potential penalty? The inside of the book itself reveals the library policy: “Books may be kept two weeks without renewal unless otherwise labeled; a fine of two cents per day is imposed on overdue books.” After 110 years, the patron would owe $800 for a book that costs about $1.50.
Luckily, that’s not the policy anymore (you’d just have to pay for the cost of the book eventually), and it’s unlikely the library will be investigating much further.
Still, we would love to know more, and so would the Boise Public Library. If you’re reading this and have any leads, please reach out to them. I’d like to know if the person actually finished reading the book.
In any case, bookworms in Boise will add this to their rich literary history. They’re thrilled by all things bookish. How do I know? Because they’re absolutely thrilled to have a library at all. Here’s a photo I took the last time I was in Boise that proves it.
A real photo of the Boise Public Library:
That’s right. They love the place so much, they scream it on their sign. Maybe that’s why someone was scared to admit how they’d wronged the Library! by not returning the book sooner.