Man returns library book 96 years after due date. He was spared more than $1,700 in late fees

A Northern California man returned a book to his local library this month — an astounding 96 years after the book was originally due.

The book, "A History of the United States" by Benson Lossing, was checked out in 1927 and is not in perfect shape, but the St. Helena Public Library was happy to receive it and spared the man what otherwise could have been about $1,700 in late fees.

"We probably won’t restore it. We'll leave it the way it is for now," said Chris Kreiden, the library director. "It’s pretty delicate. The pages are browning and some of the pages, the edges are crinkling. We’re putting it on display for now — and that’s probably where it will stay."

Kreiden said the book belonged to Jim Perry, a local man who returned the book he found while going through boxes. The book previously belonged to Perry's wife, who had died, according to Kreiden.

Perry believed that the book was taken out from the library in 1927 by his wife's grandfather, who then passed it down, Kreiden said.

At the time, it cost 25 cents per month to take books out from the St. Helena library, but the institution has since pivoted to waiving the check-out fee. Perry is lucky that the St. Helena Public Library also adopted a policy in 2019 that waived all late fees.

On the inside of the book, it says it can be kept for two weeks, then the fine becomes 5 cents per day. That means Perry would have owed more than $1,700 if the library had collected on its rule from 1927.

"We went fine free in 2019, but before that our maximum fine per item was $10. So he would have been OK," Kreiden said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.