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Long Overdue Library Books

Updated on January 25, 2015

Amazing Stories of Library Books Returned after Many Years

Mention "overdue library books" and many people cringe. At some time, most library users have a small delinquency, pay their fine and continue happily patronizing their library. A few with overdue books that never get returned feel a real twinge of guilty conscience. It weighs on their mind, but somehow the book remains in their possession. Years pass and the library gives up hope of ever seeing that book again.

Sometimes, like a miracle, the long delinquent book shows up at the library. The borrower wants to clear their record and do the right thing by returning the book. Here are stories of long overdue books being reunited with the library.

Graphic available on stickers from Zazzle: RETURN BOOK STICKER, OLD BOOKS ARTWORK by joyart

Famous People with Overdue Library Books - Even George Washington was a delinquent borrower

The father of our country is known for his "I cannot tell a lie" statement. We think that, of all people, George Washington would never keep a book that wasn't his. I'm sure the unreturned library book was merely an oversight, but it sure makes an interesting story.

George Washington and His Overdue Library Books

ASK THE LIBRARIAN about Your Overdue Books

Questions
Answers by Virginia Allain
I had borrowed a couple of books from the library a few days before my aunt and uncle's house was destroyed in a tornado, and of course, my library books were inside (in addition to my computer which was found hanging off of the side of the house). I'm not sure if the librarian totally believed me when I showed up to pay for the books and explained that a tornado blew them away!
A photo or a news clipping might convince the librarian to forgive your fines in a situation like this. The library has to replace the items so paying for them is the right thing for you to do.
When my daughters were young, we somehow missed returning a children's book on time. I found it in my daughter's room about two months later. I couldn't believe how much we were charged for that well worn book. I could have gone to a bookstore and bought them a new copy for far less.
Some libraries do allow the borrower to bring in a substitute copy for a lost book. The additional costs of adding labels and cataloging complicate this.
I spent years not going to the library because we owed over $24 for overdue books. I finally paid that off and we visited weekly for a couple of years. I now find myself in the same boat. I don't owe that much but yet I've not made it to the library for many months because I owe fine for overdue books. I really need to pay that out of my next check as I have a list of books we were using in our homeschooling that we didn't get to finish.
First return the books so the fines stop accumulating. Talk to the librarian about a way to work off the fine if it's too big for your budget. Don't be embarrassed. They won't make you post a sign in your yard saying "I didn't return my library books."

What's the Longest Time That an Overdue Library Book Was Out - and then returned?

As far as I could find, the case with George Washington (above) was the longest with 221 years.

This Book Was 99 Years Overdue!

Managing Library Overdues - Book for librarians (available from Amazon)

We may laugh about the idea of our first president having an overdue library book or be amazed when a book gets returned 23 years too late. For librarians, it is no laughing matter. Unreturned books are a real headache in the library. Usually it's a really popular title that goes out and doesn't come back. People keep asking for it and are annoyed with the library for not having it on the shelf.

The library sometimes dredges up the money to replace the most needed books, but often the book budget is already stretched to the max trying to get the new books people want as well. What to do? Read this book to find some solutions to overdue books.

What's the Longest Time You've Kept a Book Overdue - from a library

Vote in the anonymous poll

See results

Library Book Returned 10 Years Later

What Should I Do about My Overdue Book?

  1. Return it. Don't worry about the fine or the librarian being mad at you. Just return it.

    If you're embarrassed, drive up late at night and slip it into the book return bin or return slot. If the library doesn't have one, ask a friend to take it into the library if you just can't face the library staff.

    The fines stop accumulating at the time you return the book, so the sooner, the better.

  2. Pay up. You will owe money for the overdue fine in most libraries. Many have a maximum fine, so it stops at $5 or $10. Look on the library's web site to see if that information is there or call and ask anonymously if they have a maximum fine on overdue books.

    Usually they aren't going to charge you for every day of the 11 years you had the book out overdue. Let's see, at 10 cents a day X 365 days a year X 11 years, your fine would be $396. The library realizes that it is unlikely to collect that much from you.

  3. If the fine is a large one or you had many books overdue, see if you can negotiate with the library staff. Let them know it would be a hardship for you and ask if the fine could be reduced or forgiven. Usually you have to talk to a supervisor to get this changed.

    Another option is to ask if you can work off the fine. Some libraries allow this, but many do not. The work arrangement might be to dust the shelves or polish the tables or some other low-skilled task. If you have some special skill, like being a PR person or can teach a computer class, then you might barter those skills to help the library in return for reducing the fine.

Fascinating Reports of Long Overdue Library Books Returned - Enjoy the videos

What's Your Excuse for Keeping the Library Book - past the due date?

Your answer won't appear right away. I have to remove the SPAM first.

Give Your Tip for Returning Books on Time

Give Your Tip for Returning Books on Time

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    • zentao 5 years ago

      Now that I have a kindle, I don't use the libray much anymore, I just get a lot of free books online (and some purchased) saves money on those overdo books

    • pheonix76 5 years ago from WNY

      It has only happened to me on one or two occasions. The books were overdue by only a day or so because I had lost track of the due dates! My library sends out emails prior to books being due which helps me to remember better now. :)

    • esvoytko lm 5 years ago

      Ditto on the email reminder comment. My library does this as well.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      I usually check out more than one at a time. My excuse is that I want to return them all at the same time and haven't finished one of them.

    • Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      The ability to renew online these days is perfect for never having an overdue book.

    • Edutopia 5 years ago

      Now a days pretty much everyone has an online calendar of some sort. As soon as you check the book out make a calendar event on the due date and set an alarm for yourself the day before its due to remind you.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      Nowadays, it's pretty easy to remember. My library sends you reminder emails 3 days before our book is due. Plus, there's online renewals and even an app that makes it easy to access your account.

    • babyandme 5 years ago

      Making a note on my calendar always helps, but I can also view when the books is due online. I usually don't have too much trouble with overdue material. :)

    • Kim 5 years ago from Yonkers, NY

      Try reading at least 1-3 chapters a day. (read during tv commercials, while waiting for appointments, on breaks etc.)

      as for an excuse (mm haven't used a library book in years...) I guess because I just didn't finsih the book on time (or wether if its snowed like crazy)

    • indigomoth 5 years ago from New Zealand

      I set up an email reminder since my library doesn't send one out until the book is already overdue. Otherwise, I forget!

    • SteveKaye 5 years ago

      The best way to make sure that you return library books on time is to marry a librarian. Trust me, this works. Guaranteed.

    • Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I love that I can access the library online so I know before I head out what is due, what I can renew and what has to be returned and when. I have been guilty of being late (lost book, my dog ate my book, whatever) in the past but I'm much better now!

    Why do your library books become overdue?

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      • Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

        @denetraharris: Oh, Oh. I guess they've given up on it by now.

      • denetraharris 4 years ago

        I checked the book out in elem. school that was over 4 decades ago.

      • Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

        @anonymous: Sounds like your books got lost in the shuffle. If they haven't blocked you from borrowing books, then your record must be clear. If it is still worrying you 26 years later, just return the books and you will feel better about it.

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        i got 2 books from the library, and the next month, i honestly forgot to take them back, but they didn't say a thing, and I knew they were entering a new system, and were meaning to get rid of some of the older books, but i didn't pay for them either, and the next month i went back, and they still didn't say anything, so i forgot all about it, and now i have 2 books out for 26 years, not sure if they meant to give them away, or not

      • Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

        @anonymous: Talk to the library and see what can be done and how much you need to pay. Maybe they will let you work off the fine.

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        I lost it. I am scared.

      • TeacherSerenia 4 years ago

        I usually get overdue books when I don't take notice of the Best Bets sticker on the front cover,. Those are only issued for 1 week, not 3 weeks. I just paid another fine today because a book I took out last week was a best bet book and I didn't get my 3 weeks to read it!!! I had to take it back UNREAD. I will have to get it out again when I have time to read it.

      • thomanna 5 years ago

        I know I checked out a couple of books from my elementary school library and then we moved to another city. I found them when I was a senior in highschool while cleaning the shed. Don't know what's happened to them since.

      • cocomoonbeams 5 years ago

        My daughter had dropped a library book in the farthest reaches beside the bed and the wall. I didn't even know we still had it until I received the late notice.

      • mommafox 5 years ago

        I just can't get back to the library on time. I figure what the heck. My overdue fees help buy new books. I am habitual late. I need a library like Netflicks, no late fees and no new checkouts till I return it. lol

      • intermarks 5 years ago

        I have borrowed a book from the public library, and I have left it in my car and I have forgotten all about it after 4 months. I was charged $38 for late return.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Well, we're traveling in Brazil right now and our Portuguese still isn't all that great. The library actually closed the day before we went to return the books and then moved and just recently re-opened. The books were returned yesterday. Whew! About 8 weeks total.

      • PamelaU 5 years ago

        A college course book got mixed up with some of my own books and, after finishing up and moving away I found it. Terrified of the overdue fee, I buried my head in the sand and forgot about it until I received a fine of more than £600 - the college had my new address.

        I posted the book back to the college library with a crawly note and kept my fingers crossed. Thankfully, I heard no more about it......

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Way back when in Elementary School, I would always seem to lose my books and not find it by the due date. Because there were no fees, I found myself keeping it for months and months. One time, I didn't return the book until two grades later!

        Nowadays I'm more responsible with my book borrowing (especially since those fines can stack up quite fast!).

      • curious0927 5 years ago

        It was a Textbook for a College Computer Class. I saved about $130 dollars for the book with a small late return fee!

      • Heidi 5 years ago from Benson, IL

        In most cases, I've just been late by a day or two because life got in the way and I couldn't get to the library on time. I've always paid the fine right then though.

      • MariaMontgomery 5 years ago from Central Florida, USA

        I once borrowed several books, then took one on a trip. I returned all the books on time -- or so I thought. The next time I got out my luggage to pack for another trip, there was that book. It was the only time I ever had one that was more than a few days late. I felt so guilty.

      • BuddyBink 5 years ago

        I just keep forgetting to take it with me when I go to the library.

      • writergrey 5 years ago

        Just getting too busy and losing track of time.

      • squid-pinkchic18 5 years ago

        Back when I was little, I used to check out all kinds of library books with the best of intentions. But of course, you can't count on a middle schooler to remember where she puts all these books. They'd show up eventually - and the library staff was always happy to see them :)

      Suggested Solutions for Librarians

      Library Overdues: Analysis, Strategies, and Solutions to the Problem
      Library Overdues: Analysis, Strategies, and Solutions to the Problem

      Professional librarians and circulation staff need this book to handle their overdue problems efficiently.

       
      Source

      Here's a little humor on the situation with a shirt from Zazzle: Life is short- shirt by xylina

      © 2012 Virginia Allain

      Tell Me Your Overdue Book Story...

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        • Jerzimom profile image

          Cheryl Fay Mikesell 2 years ago from Ladysmith, WI

          Interesting about George Washington with that overdue fine. I use to work at a Library for 5 1/2 yes. The first person I remember came in to pay his whole families account. It was around $300. I almost fell out of my chair.

        • Virginia Allain profile image
          Author

          Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

          @Frischy: Librarians have mixed feelings about amnesty day. Yes, it gets some long-overdue books returned. The problem is some people hoard their overdue books for longer in expectation that 6 months down the road there will be an amnesty.

        • Frischy profile image

          Frischy 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA

          The library in my hometown had an "Amnesty Day" once a year. You could return overdue books and all fines were forgiven. It was a great way for them to get all those books back and people could return books without worry. I think it was very successful.

        • zillermil profile image

          zillermil 5 years ago

          Great lens! I'm a librarian too so this lens really appealed to me. Thanks.

        • katemiya profile image

          katemiya 5 years ago

          Great lens topic. I always felt my fines were my way to help the library raise money especially because I always donate the change after paying my fines. :)

        • profile image

          anonymous 5 years ago

          Now I don't feel so bad about all those times I have had a book a few days overdue, but I am terrible for doing it.

        • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

          Gayle 5 years ago from McLaughlin

          Since I was a librarian--this story is a hoot! Love the Library Book Bag!

        • pheonix76 profile image

          pheonix76 5 years ago from WNY

          I am a frequent library visitor and am pleased to say that I rarely have an overdue item and when it's happened, it was only for a couple of days. Interesting / unique lens!

        • Julia Morais profile image

          Julia Morais 5 years ago

          I've never kept a library book too long before. But I've found some long overdue library books lying around in friends' homes. I guess it's more common than I thought.

        • mommafox profile image

          mommafox 5 years ago

          After 3 years, the library drops your account and your fees are wiped clean. A godsend for us late returners. Just have to wait out three years lol

        • intermarks profile image

          intermarks 5 years ago

          I have a few books were overdue in hand now, your this lens just reminded me about them. Thanks!

        • Wednesday-Elf profile image

          Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

          I actually return to the library for another selection of books before the due date. I read too fast to ever have an overdue book. Now, my 'daughter' is another case -- she just simply forgets as she usually reads 2-3 books at the same time (one is at work, one in the car, one at home.....) and forgets when they are due. :)

        • profile image

          jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

          I get the feeling that you can easily get away with overdue library books because no one really cares to hound you for it.

        • hsschulte profile image

          hsschulte 5 years ago

          The Topeka library refused to take a book back. They told me I was so late that I would have to pay for the book. I agreed to pay, but still wanted to return it. They said, "no." LOL.

        • Brookelorren LM profile image

          Brookelorren LM 5 years ago

          I've had overdue library books from after my house caught on fire. I also tend to have difficulty turning in my books right before I go on vacation for a month. I have to be very careful next time... you don't even want to know what the fees are for forgetting to turn in library books then!

        • Brookelorren LM profile image

          Brookelorren LM 5 years ago

          After a certain amount of time, our library makes us buy the book, and we also have to pay a restocking fee. After I buy the book, I keep it. I've had to do that with a few of them, unfortunately. But I guess that it's still cheaper to use the library than to buy all those books. Our library also has a maximum overdue charge of $10 per book, and once a year they'll halve your fine. If you buy the book, you don't have to pay the late fee on top of it.

        • Commandrix profile image

          Heidi 5 years ago from Benson, IL

          Generally, I suggest finishing the book a day or two in advance so you can get it back by the due date. Have been occasionally overdue myself a time or two and I try to get it back as soon as I remember.

        • profile image

          Coopstar 5 years ago

          Very interesting, especially the George Washington's story. I guess he was pretty irresponsible...

        • PlethoraReader profile image

          Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

          An interesting topic I never would have thought much about, but as a huge supporter of libraries I think this was a great article.

        • lasertek lm profile image

          lasertek lm 5 years ago

          I usually return books on time because I don't want to pay overdue fees.

        • writergrey profile image

          writergrey 5 years ago

          There's a great old Bloom County comic that has Opus explaining his overdue book to his librarian, Mrs. McGreevy, who wields a double-headed axe!

        • BLouw profile image

          Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

          Who could have thought that overdue library books could be so enchanting?

        • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

          Nathalie Roy 5 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

          I felt awful because once, just once, I forgot to bring back a book to my city library..it was pass due for 2 days.

        • profile image

          Edutopia 5 years ago

          Great lens, when it comes to overdue books at some point it would have just been better to buy the book outright, haha.

        • babyandme profile image

          babyandme 5 years ago

          My current library doesn't charge high fines, so it's not too bad. It's only about ten cents a day. However, my previous library charged about a dollar a day.

          Once my ten year old daughter lost the book 'Pride and Prejudice' and we couldn't find it for months. We were certain we had returned it, but the library claimed that their records showed otherwise. We ended up having to pay the library for a book we had thought we had returned. It turned out however, that she had not returned it after all. We found it in our garage many months later. :)

          Great lens! Thank you for sharing! The title caught my eye and I just had to read it. That tidbit about George Washington was very interesting! Thank you for the lovely lens! :)

          Have a blessed day! :)

        • profile image

          chompasaurus 5 years ago

          The fines are so tiny anyway, it's hardly ever a big deal. Anyone who doesn't love the library has obviously not had the good fortune of being to one.

        • profile image

          getmoreinfo 5 years ago

          I was amazed to learn of the longest overdue book and now I do not feel so bad for missing my library book date.

        • indigomoth profile image

          indigomoth 5 years ago from New Zealand

          This was an awesome lens btw. I loved the bit about George Washington!

        • indigomoth profile image

          indigomoth 5 years ago from New Zealand

          When I worked as a librarian it always made me happy to be able to ask people why the book was overdue. Sometimes they had been in the hospital or something else and I loved being able to just wipe the slate clean for them without charging them a fine. The other librarians did the same.

        • PaulaSquidoo profile image

          PaulaSquidoo 5 years ago

          I used to pay the occasional fine, but now I renew my books online when I get the email reminder that they are due. Great lens :-)

        • profile image

          AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

          I always returned my books on time, but I did slip up when my daughter was about 10 or so. She had one checked out so long we ended up paying a $17 fine. I think I could have replaced the book for them for less.

        • LiteraryMind profile image

          Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

          Interesting topic. Our library now sends email reminders a few days before books are due. Also, we may return them to any library in the state. That really helps.

        • Virginia Allain profile image
          Author

          Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

          @Zut Moon: You are too funny!

        • Virginia Allain profile image
          Author

          Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

          @ChrissLJ: My local public library was fine free and I admit that sometimes I took advantage, keeping the books longer than I should. Recently they started charging fines again. I imagine the county commissioners forced it on them as a way to boost the budget.

        • profile image

          Ruthi 5 years ago

          Great reminder for me to return the pile of library books here on the shelf alongside my desk. I cringe in shame of how long overdue these books are.

        • Scarlettohairy profile image

          Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

          I don't mind paying fines since I use the library so much, so I don't sweat it when I am a few days (or a week) overdue. I love libraries!

        • Missmerfaery444 profile image

          Missmerfaery444 5 years ago

          Terrific idea for a lens! I confess, I have been guilty many times... mainly because I always took out far too many books to read in the given time!

        • ChrissLJ profile image

          ChrissLJ 5 years ago

          Studies show charging fines for overdue library books is actually going against the core purpose of a library. In libraries where no fines are charged, the general public has a more positive view of their library and their tax dollars being spent there. Parents are much less likely to allow children to check out books or as many books as well. Our library does not charge fines and as a partial result, we have a 90%+ satisfaction rate and our circulation is 2-3 times higher than other library systems of similar sizes and populations.

        • Zut Moon profile image

          Zut Moon 5 years ago

          BTW ... I heard that the Franklin family was also known for having overdue books, especially the son Benjamin. He borrowed a lot of books about kite-flying and thunderstorms. Him and this Washington fellow you refer to are a bad example to the rest of you fine citizens of America.

        • Zut Moon profile image

          Zut Moon 5 years ago

          I say this dude Washington should pay up. Send a bill collector out and haul his butt back to the library. Either he pays or put him in jail !!!

        • Frischy profile image

          Frischy 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

          I am somehow distantly related to George, so all I can say is that it must run in the family.

        • Virginia Allain profile image
          Author

          Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

          @MBradley McCauley: The idea part was easy. As a librarian, I always loved reading a news story of a long overdue book being returned. Figured others would enjoy it too.

        • MBradley McCauley profile image

          MBradley McCauley 5 years ago

          I love the lens. Love the idea, how did you come up with it. I would never have thought of it. Good job. BTW--speaking of George Washington and his overdue library book, when you get a minute you might enjoy reading my lens about George in the early years. It's written in the 1st person, as if he is telling you about himself, but he doesn't mention his library book. I hope you don't mind if I leave a link to that lens here....I think you may enjoy reading it.

          http://www.squidoo.com/i-am-george-washington

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