Overdue book by L.M. Montgomery returned to library 38 years late

A library in ALberta is looking for a place of honour to display a copy of Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery which was returned after nearly four decades.

Happy to have the book back, library waives $2,000 late fees

A library book checked out in St. Albert, Alta. is back where it belongs, 38 years after it was due. (Stock photo)

The St. Albert Public Library is waiving the fine for a book checked out nearly 40 years ago. 

"At today's rate of 15 cents a day overdue, it would have caught it up to $2,000," library director Peter Bailey said Thursday. "We didn't assess a fine (since) we were just charmed to have a book of that vintage returned to us."

The book, part five of the Anne of Green Gables series by P.E.I. author L.M. Montgomery, is titled Anne's House of Dreams.

The St. Albert Public Library tweeted out this picture of the book in question, Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery. (St. Albert Library/Twitter)

Fittingly, the missing book was returned just on the cusp of the new year, Bailey said.

On the morning of Dec. 31, a man entered the library and approached the main library desk with a book in hand, "which isn't normal," Bailey said.

"Usually all our materials come through the automated return on the outside of the building," he said. "It turned out the book was due back to the St. Albert Public Library in November of 1977."

For those of you doing the math, that makes it 38 years overdue. 

Bailey said the man had found the book while clearing out his mother's house in Edmonton.

That type of story is pretty common, Bailey said. People regularly report they've misplaced a book somewhere in their house. 

Library director Peter Bailey said the book was found by the original borrower's son, 38 years after it was due. (Supplied)

"We usually send them back home and say, 'Have another look around' and usually these materials turn up," Bailey said. "It is unusual for something to show up after four decades."

Typically, if a book has been missing for a few months it is replaced and the borrower charged a replacement fee, Bailey said.

"Even if the patron finds the book after a few years, they've generally already paid the replacement costs for it, so the book is theirs. But we're happy to accept the donation of this older book."

Because the Anne of Green Gables books are such classics, Bailey said this particular title had already been replaced multiple times since the original was checked out. In fact, today the book is available in paperback, e-book and audiobook, he added.

While Bailey said library staff were happy to accept the book back into the fold, he said it won't be going back into circulation — partly due to its age, but also because the library is already at capacity.

A campaign has been underway for some time to add a second public library in St. Albert.

"In the meantime, any new book that we add means that an older book had to come out of the collection and be weeded," Bailey said.

"We don't really have a lot of books of that vintage. It would have to be something quite special or of local interest for it to be on the shelf for four decades."

However, going missing for nearly four decades will be enough to earn the 38-year-late Anne book a place of honour in the library's display case, Bailey said.

The library also tweeted out this Shel Silverstein poem in celebration of the long-lost book's return.


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