Long-overdue book returned to library after 47 years

Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 8:35 AM CST
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LAKE ELMO, Minn. (WCCO) - A checked-out book finally made its way back home to a library in Minnesota 47 years later.

“It would have been in the 629 section,” Karen Rodricks said.

She pointed out where the “Chilton’s Foreign Car Repair Manual” used to be at the Lake Elmo branch of Washington County Libraries.

“Diesel repair book, too, in here so,” she said.

For decades it was missing from the shelves, until earlier this month when it arrived by mail. And inside the front of the cover, there was a handwritten note.

“In the mid-1970s, I was living in Lake Elmo and working on an old Mercedes Benz,” the note said. “A few months later I moved, and apparently the book got packed up in the move.”

The anonymous sender didn’t include a return address but explained why it was never returned.

“My apologies to anyone in Lake Elmo who was working on an old Benz in the last 47 years,” the note said. “I probably can’t afford the overdue charge, but I will send you enough for another book.”

Along with the note, $200 in cash was also included.

“This is the prize: the note,” Rodricks said.

It was the story behind this book’s journey that was more valuable to Rodricks than the cash inside.

Washington County Libraries no longer charges overdue fees, and they have other copies of the manual at other branches. So that money will be put be reinvested back into the Lake Elmo Library.

“The library always needs money, and we probably will put it towards books,” Rodricks said.

In a time when everything is digital and libraries don’t get as many people renting physical copies, it was nice for them to see a stranger remind them how much they care.

“That just shows how much he values the library,” Rodricks said.

Unfortunately, the book is not in good enough condition to lend out again, but the library did save the note of its journey back home.