Mar 20, 2024 - News

Overdue book returned to Colorado library 37 years later

Photo: Courtesy of High Plains Library District

On May 30, 1987, a curious reader looking to learn more about hallucinogenic drugs checked out Bernard Aaronson and Humphry Osmond's "Psychedelics" from the public library in Weld County.

The latest: It wouldn't be until nearly 37 years later — or 13,437 days — that the book made its way back after an anonymous person returned it through the drive-up book drop at Riverside Library and Cultural Center in Evans.

  • Inside the cover was its original library checkout card, plus a yellow post-it note that read, "Sorry so late!! It's been a long strange trip!!" with a smiley face drawn next to the message.
The book that made its way back to the library 13,437 days late — or 36 years, 9 months and 13 days to be exact. Photo: Courtesy of High Plains Library District

What they're saying: According to staff who have worked for decades in Weld County's library system, this was the most overdue book in its history, spokesperson James Melena tells us.

  • If the High Plains Library District hadn't done away with its fining system nearly a decade ago, whoever checked out the book would have faced a charge of over $1,300, Melena says.
  • "If anyone can beat the current record of 13,437 days, I'm offering you total amnesty for the safe return of your items," library staff shared on social media Monday. "Although I'm not encouraging you to check something out TODAY and return late enough to beat the record, which would be… January 1st, 2061. We'll be closed New Year's Day. Probably. Maybe. By 2061, who knows?"

Fun fact: The library's current oldest overdue item is "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by Laura Numeroff, which was checked out in February 2017, Melena tells us.

The big picture: It's not uncommon for overdue library books to find their way back after decades — and sometimes even centuries.

  • Last year, a Massachusetts library saw a title returned after 119 years, while one in Pennsylvania turned up after 120 years.
  • The Guinness world record for the most overdue library book is held by one taken back to Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, England, a whopping 288 years later.
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