Nearly 50 years later, an overdue library book makes it way home to Lake Elmo

A photo of a book and letter
Lake Elmo Library in Washington County received a package with an overdue book in it from the 1970s. While the book is now outdated, employees say it was the thought that counted, and the handwritten letter included.
Courtesy photo

One patron is in luck that the Washington County library system waved its late fees.

Karen Rodricks, senior library services supervisor at the Lake Elmo branch, had a package waiting for her when she got to work on Nov. 2. As she opened it she knew this one was a bit different than the typical library mail.

There was no return address and when she opened the box, a carefully wrapped car repair manual fell out with a letter and $200.

“In the mid-1970s, I was living in Lake Elmo and was working on an old Mercedes Benz. I took out this book for reference. A few months later, I moved and apparently the book got packed up. Forty-seven years later I found it in a trunk with other interesting things from the ‘70s. It’s a little overdue, but I thought you might want it back. My apologies to anyone in Lake Elmo who was working on an old Benz in the last 47 years.”

This isn’t the first time Rodricks has seen an overdue book find its way home, but she said it was definitely the oldest one she’d encountered.

“It occasionally happens, but what is so delightful about this book is the note. It expresses that he valued having access to this book 47 years ago and he values the library enough to return it,” she said. “He just took the time, and it means the most to us. We hope other people feel this way about the library too.”

Unfortunately, the repair manual was a bit outdated and so had a date with the recycler.

Rodricks says the library does not keep records back that far so there was likely no way they knew it was missing. Last year Washington County libraries decided to waive overdue fines and 9,848 patrons regained library access. For the anonymous returner, they would only owe a replacement cost.

The $200 more than covers that and Rodricks says it will be used as a donation to the library.

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