May 27, 2023 | 3:11 a.m.
A California man returned a book to the St. Helena Public Library that was 96 years overdue.
St. Helena Public Library: Instagram
Better late than never.
A California man returned a library book a century past its due date, according to a report.
Jim Perry dropped the battered and frayed 1892 copy of “A Family History of the United States” at the St. Helena Public Library, about 20 miles west of Santa Rosa, earlier this month.
“This is an old book that has been in our family for five generations,” Perry told the Washington Post who told the front desk, assuming the library would be interested in keeping a relic of history.
As it turns out, historian Benson Lossing’s book was likely part of the original collection at St. Helen’s Library and may have been part of the inventory at another earlier location: the nearby Carnegie Building, which was built in 1908.
The textbook, which predates the movie Airplanes and Highways, had been withdrawn by someone in Perry’s wife’s family in 1927, the library discovered.
After some research, Perry thought it was probably borrowed from his wife’s grandfather, John McCormick, who might have wanted the book to start teaching his two young daughters about American history.
“This is the oldest I’ve seen, definitely,” said Chris Kreiden, library director. “I mean we’ve had things [checked out for] two or three years, maybe five, but never anything that long.
Perry said the book had been sitting in boxes at her family home for the past several years and she even moved to Napa with it in 2015.
After rediscovering the history book during a spring cleaning, Perry decided it was time to return it to its rightful owners.
“I didn’t know how special it was,” Perry said.
Fortunately for Perry, the St. Helen Public Library stopped charging late fees in 2019, which means she won’t owe the $1,700 bill she inherited from her grandfather-in-law.
The part of the story, which Kreiden said is “falling apart,” now lives in a preserved glass case near the library’s entrance alongside photographs of the reading room and the Carnegie Building.
The fragile book is opened at the back cover to reveal the original stamp with the date of return: February 21, 1927.
The textbook may soon be moved to a file box or turned over to the local historical society for further preservation, according to Kreiden.
“It’s never too late to return your library book,” Kreiden said.