Every now and then, the universe delivers us a really good overdue library book story.
In 2013, a nameless reader in Urbana, Ohio made headlines for finally returning The Real Book About Snakes — after taking approximately 41 years to read it. That same year, the New York Public Library was mailed an overdue copy of The Fire of Francis Xavier, which was originally checked out in 1958. (By discreetly mailing it back, the reader expertly dodged all fines.)
The stories go on, and honestly, I love hearing them. Mostly because they’re oddly hilarious. But also because they help assuage any leftover embarrassment I still harbor from my own checkered history with the library. (For the record, renting Pride & Prejudice on VHS in 1998 is still the priciest mistake I’ve ever made.)
But now, there’s a new one to add to the list: According to ABC News, a long-overdue library book was recently returned in Albany, Oregon after 81 years — apparently, after a contractor found it hidden in the drywall of a nearby home.
In case you’re thinking that must’ve been one juicy book if its reader went to such lengths as to hide it in a wall for eight decades, let me stop you right there. This wasn’t exactly the 50 Shades of Grey of the early 20th century — the book in question was titled American Railway Transportation, published in 1907 by Emory R. Johnson.
On the card inside, there was no check-out date listed; just one name: D.W. Lovett.
But when a 72-year-old local named Hasso Hering caught wind of the story, he dug a little deeper to learn more.
As he later told ABC News, Hering had long since admired the old house the library book was found in. “I like riding my bike and I have certain routes and I’ve kept an eye on this old house for years,” Hering told the outlet. “The contractor knew I was interested in the old house and he told me he found an old book in the drywall.”
In fact, it was Hering who discovered the name D.W. Lovett stamped on the card. In his research, he learned that “D.W.” were most likely the shortened initials for Dallas W. Lovett, whose profession was listed in the city directories as a yardsman for the South Pacific Railroad. And according to library records, Lovett was actually pretty good about the whole returning your library book thing. (Save this one time.)
“The library card showed that this particular borrower had been very conscientious about taking out books and returning them,” said Hering, who is a former editor of the local Albany Democrat-Herald newspaper. “I figure he must have checked out the book as part of his training and interest,” Herig said.
As for when exactly the book was checked out, Hering says his research led him to one particular date: April 24, 1935.
But there’s still one head-scratcher Hering just can’t seem to solve: How did the book get inside the wall? After all, Lovett never even lived inside the home the book was discovered in — it belonged to a woman who lived there from 1935 until her death, just a few years ago. The yardsman did live close by, though; just a block away, according to Hering, who chronicles his research over on his personal blog. And for all we know, Lovett could still be alive, since ABC News reports that Hering was never able to find an obituary for him.
But if he is alive to discover this news, Lovett might be relieved to know that the overdue fee — which was one cent per day in 1935, totaling $295 today— has now been expunged. That’s because the book no longer sits on the shelves of the Albany Public Library, thanks to the gracious librarians who gave it to Hering. (Probably right after they realized that if nobody had missed the book in the last 81 years, they probably wouldn’t miss it now.)