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The 50-year overdue library book

PUBLISHED: 14:37 26 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:58 07 September 2010

Tom Stephenson with daughter Lucy

Tom Stephenson with daughter Lucy

Ben McPartland RETURNING overdue library books is not normally a stressful experience – but you could forgive Highgate's Tom Stephenson for being a little worried. On Saturday, he handed back a novel exactly half a century late. Accompanied by his daughte

Ben McPartland

RETURNING overdue library books is not normally a stressful experience - but you could forgive Highgate's Tom Stephenson for being a little worried.

On Saturday, he handed back a novel exactly half a century late.

Accompanied by his daughter Lucy, Mr Stephenson walked into Kentish Town library to give back a copy of Holy Disorders - 50 years to the day since his father John first took it out on loan.

But thankfully he didn't need to get out his credit card after surprised staff decided to relinquish any windfall they could have made through a hefty fine.

"I was a little bit worried," said the Talbot Road resident. "But I was returning it on behalf of my father and, in fact, the library staff said the fine would have been capped at just £3.

"I think the staff were surprised and a little bit amused.

"They said the previous record they had for an out-of-date book was 30 years - so we broke that quite easily.

"I think my father took it out and then moved house within a week or two. It must have then got muddled up in with their other things. It must have been sat on the same shelf for all that time."

Mr Stephenson only discovered the book when he was searching through his late father's possessions at the family home in Brookfield Park, Kentish Town, last week.

"The surprising thing is that my father was always very honest and efficient about returning things. So it must have been the fact they moved house," said Mr Stephenson.

"The thing is that, 50 years ago, the library did not have any computerised record system so the book did not appear on the current stock lists."

And it seems history could be repeating itself because the library's replacement copy of Holy Disorders is currently missing from the bookshelves.

Camden's libraries boss Flick Rea admitted she too has had to pay the odd fine in the past.

She said: "I think it is great dedication to bring a book back after so long. Library fines are there really to deter people from hanging onto books forever. They are more of a deterrent than a punishment.

"At the moment, my books are all up to date. I do admit to having kept them a few days over but I always pay my fines. I am very law abiding with my library books.


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