The next time you happen to keep a library book a few days past its due date, don’t feel so bad. At the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, a book of poems by E.E. Cummings was just returned after being 50 years overdue.
According to United Press International, the book (no title was given) was recently mailed back along with a letter of apology for being so delinquent. It had apparently gotten mixed up with the owner’s own collection, its library stamp undiscovered until recently.
“It's been over 50 years since I've lived in Cleveland, so this must have gotten boxed up when we moved,” read the letter in part. “I am so very sorry. Here's a lucky $2 bill for whoever opens this!”
Enclosed was a $2 bill, a now-defunct denomination of currency that was printed from 1862 to 1966. While that probably wouldn’t begin to cover the fines totaled over a half-century, the tardy lender doesn’t have to worry. The library did away with fines in 2019.
Cleveland Heights-University Heights appears to be on a streak of getting their material back. A 1970 Bob Dylan record titled Self Portrait, checked out for 48 years, arrived in the mail last May. Library officials believe it's possible the Cummings hoarder saw that news and decided to act.
While 50 years is certainly impressive, it pales in comparison to other return oversights, including a borrower whose family didn't return a copy of 1875's Insectivorous Plants by Charles Darwin for 122 years and a man who returned 1955's The Real Book About Snakes by Jane Sherman after 41 years. “Sorry I've kept this book so long, but I'm a really slow reader,” he wrote.