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Overdue book returned after 41 years

Champaign County patron includes a check to cover his fine.

When employees at the Champaign County Public Library arrived at work Wednesday, they found a library book 41 years overdue, an anonymous apology and a check for $299.30.

“The Real Book About Snakes,” was found in the library’s drop box bound with a single piece of tape. Tucked inside was an apology written on plain notebook paper and a check. The book was returned to the library exactly 41 years to the day it had originally been borrowed in 1972, said Ty Henderson, director of the Champaign County Public Library.

“Right then I knew he had to have returned it intentionally on that day,” Henderson said.

Despite its age, the book is still in relatively good condition, although its dark green cover is slightly worn. The check included the amount of late fees due to the library for 41 years. At the time it was borrowed, late fees were two cents per day.

The note was simple.

“To Champaign County Library, Sorry I’ve kept this book for so long, but I’m a really slow reader! I’ve enclosed my fine of $299.30 (41 years, 2 cents a day.) Once again, my apologies.”

“I’m hoping he’ll come forward,” Henderson said. “I’d love to give the book back to him. If he wants to retain that anonymity, we’ll certainly respect that.”

The book came from the library’s juvenile section, which leads Henderson to believe the individual was a child when the book was first borrowed.

The library plans to use the money in a way that will benefit area children. The check will be used to purchase juvenile non-fiction books, specifically focusing on items about snakes and reptiles.

Because of its age, Henderson said the book also tells a story about the library’s past.

Inside, a note in pencil shows the library initially purchased the book for $1.70 in 1955. The stamp sheet inside the book showed how many times the book had been borrowed before 1972, and there was an imprint of the library’s name on page 27. Back then, Henderson said, the library used to stamp its name on page 27 of every book it allowed residents to borrow.

“It tells us a lot about the library,” Henderson said.

It also shows how inflation has affected late fees. While late fees were two cents a day in 1972, the current rate is 10 cents per day. At that rate, Henderson estimated the late fees due at current prices would be $1,496.50.

“The person who brought it back is definitely setting a good example for others,” Henderson said.

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