In July of 2013 a book was returned to Memorial Library that was long past its due date— and not just a few weeks or months overdue. The title has been missing from the library for more than 75 years!
Selected Papers on Philosophy by William James is part of the Everyman’s Library series edited by Ernest Rhys. The book was last checked out on January 13, 1938, with a fourteen day loan period. This means that as of July 18, 2013 the book was 75 years, five months, and three weeks overdue. According to the date due slip, the overdue fine at the time was two cents per day, bringing the total to $550.94 (if we’re keeping tabs—which we’re not).
The book recently was mailed to Vice Provost Ed Van Gemert’s office, with an accompanying letter that brought a smile to his face:
Dear Mr. Van Gemert,
My parents met as students at the University of Wisconsin in 1937 and have been married for nearly 73 years. Recently, I have been sorting through the myriad boxes in their basement. I found the enclosed volume, which seems to be overdue at the University Library. I am not sure which of my parents is the scofflaw, but it seems appropriate to return it. I hope that the absence of this work has not had adverse consequences for the intellectual life of the University.
Van Gemert said, “Though the library has received old, overdue books before, this has to break the record for the longest overdue book returned to the library.”