Overdue Book Returned to Colorado Library After 105 Years

The Fort Collins library waived the fine, which totaled over $14,000 when adjusted for inflation

After its century-long disappearance, the book was returned in good condition earlier this year. Poudre Libraries

On February 13, 1919, a reader in Colorado checked out Ivanhoe, Walter Scott’s historical romance novel, from the Fort Collins Public Library and Free Reading Room.

A few months ago, the book was finally returned to the library—now named the Poudre River Public Library District—105 years after its due date.

“It came to us from an unnamed woman who [got it from] from her brother, who found it in their mom’s belongings in Kansas,” Annaclaire Crumpton, the library’s digital communications specialist, tells Jennifer Meckles of the local TV station KUSA.

The book’s inside back cover holds the original due date slip, which shows that it was checked out just three times before its disappearance. The inside front cover features a slip displaying its accession number, which was assigned to the book when the library acquired it, and the library’s lending rules.

According to the rules, “A fine of two cents per day shall be collected on all books. If a messenger be sent for a detained book an additional charge of 25 cents shall be collected.”

Under this system, the fine would now be approximately $760, or about $14,000 when adjusted for inflation, writes Katie Auman, the library’s communications and development director, for the Poudre Libraries blog.

Ivanhoe inside front cover
The inside front cover of the overdue Ivanhoe Poudre Libraries

“It’s been annotated and well-loved—so you wonder how many generations it went through, how many parents to kids,” Crumpton tells KUSA.

Luckily for the unknown reader who checked out the book, the library stopped enforcing overdue materials fines in November 2020.

Ivanhoe was not the first decades-overdue book recovered by the Colorado library. In 2019, a book was returned in the mail 40 years after its due date. The text, Working With Stained Glass by Jean Jacques Duval, had been checked out in October 1978. Although it was returned before the termination of overdue fines, the library dismissed the charges, which, when calculated at the 2019 rate of $0.10 per day, totaled almost $1,500.

Fort Collins’ library system has a rich history dating back to 1882, when citizens established a community reading room. In 1900, it became Colorado’s sixth public library.

WCVB’s Jocelyn Brumbaugh reports that the library’s staff hopes the overdue Ivanhoe can be displayed at a local history museum or in a special space at the library.

In other parts of the country—and the world—libraries have received books that had been missing for even longer periods. Just last year, a university received a donation that included a copy of James Clerk Maxwell’s An Elementary Treatise on Electricity that was nearly 120 years overdue at a library in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, the record for the world’s most overdue library book belongs to an obscure German text borrowed from the University of Cambridge’s Sidney Sussex College around 1667 or 1668. A professor stumbled across the volume and returned in 1956, nearly 300 years after it went missing.

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