1. Last year, the New York Public Library received a book nearly 54 years after its due date which was Aug. 17, 1959.
Billy Parrott, the managing librarian at NYPL’s Mid-Manhattan Library, brought the incident to light in his recent, and hilarious, blog post which spoke of the stigmas associated with returning overdue books.
He suggested that this Seinfeld episode, the one with “a long overdue copy of Tropic of Cancer and the quick, hardboiled reprimands from the library cop named Bookman,” could have triggered guilty associations with returning a book too late.
2. The long overdue book was Ideal Marriage: Its Physiology and Technique by Dutch gynecologist Theodoor Hendrik van de Velde.
Parrott told BuzzFeed that books are generally returned late either because the borrower felt guilt or shame for keeping the book for so long or was simply forgetful.
In this case however, Parrott suggested the “subject matter of this book speaks to all the reasons why materials are returned late.”
In his words, Ideal Marriage is “a very wordy and very scientific instruction manual for sexual activity written in 1926.”
Parrot said he has only thumbed through the book which entails lots of numbers, charts, and graphs and includes sentences such as “herewith designate the full range of contact and connection, between human beings, for sexual consummation.”
“In addition to the guilt associated with overdue fines the patron also had to bear the humiliation of returning such a lurid book,” Parrott wrote in his blog.
3. The book was returned along with an apologetic note from the borrower’s “shocked-in-law” in Arizona. The note revealed why the borrower hid the book for all those years.
“We found this book amongst my late brother-in-law’s things. Funny thing is the book didn’t support his efforts with his first (and only) marriage… it failed! No wonder he hid the book! So sorry!!
A shocked in-law.”
5. Parrott said, “An overdue item is nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about.”
To remain anonymous, Parrott suggested using the library’s drop box to return the overdue book. “We want you to use the library and its resources, and we want our materials so others can use them,” he said. “Libraries are the greatest resource, and they’re free.”
In case you’re wondering, this copy of Ideal Marriage cannot be borrowed because the library did not put it back into circulation as it was not in demand.