NWHS librarian Liz Sawyer with the overdue book from 1953 which has been returned

School Library Sees Book Returned – 63 Years Late

Posted on: 2nd December 2016

A rather overdue library book has been returned to a school library in north Norfolk 63 years after it was borrowed – by the student who took it out in 1953.

The anonymous former North Walsham High School for Girls student, now in her 70s, discovered the book – a 1929 copy of Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson – when clearing out clutter in her house, and was shocked to find it stamped with a 1953 return date.

Now the book is being returned to the shelves of the library at North Walsham High School so that present-day students can enjoy the author’s tales of travelling in southern France with his donkey companion.

The school library is appealing for anyone else who might have a long-overdue book to return it – and are promising that no late fines will be levied.

“We don’t charge overdue fines at the school library, and whilst we don’t lose many books, there must have been a few which have been inadvertently retained by students over the years,” said school librarian Liz Sawyer.

“It would be really nice to get some of them back, especially older books which we might not have on the shelves today.

“The lady who brought back the Robert Louis Stevenson book apologised for not returning it sooner – but better late than never!”

Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes is Robert Louis Stevenson’s account of his 120 mile solo hike through the sparsely populated Cévennes mountains in south-central France in 1878.  His only companion was Modestine, a stubborn donkey with which he has a difficult relationship, but eventually grows fond of.

Some Overdue Library Facts

  • According to Guinness World Records, the biggest ever fine for an overdue library book was $345.14 (£277.31), paid in 2002 at Kewanee Public library in Illinois, USA, when Emily Canellos-Simms returned a copy of the poetry book Days and deeds which she had found in her mother’s house – and which her mother had borrowed from the library in April 1955, two years after the copy of Travels with a Donkey was taken out of the North Walsham High School library.
  • Norfolk Library Service has a maximum fine for overdue books of £6.60, which is reached once a book is seven weeks past the date it is due to be returned.
  • In 2011 a book was returned to a library in Troutbeck, Cumbria some 123 years after it was borrowed in 1888 – thought to be the most overdue library book ever returned to a British library.

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