At libraries, it’s not unusual for books to get returned past their due date. Presumably, a tardy patron simply forgot to mark the return date on the calendar or maybe the borrowed book just sits on a nightstand (or in a backpack) a little too long. Most of the time, library workers don’t know the specific reasons behind the missing item, especially if it’s been a while since the book disappeared.
But, one librarian in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, recently got an unexpected delivery: a package from Arkansas with a 50-year overdue book, along with a letter of explanation and a $20 bill.
Laura Keller, the director of the Plymouth Public Library, shared the story of the book’s long-overdue return home with the local newspaper The Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice, which was then picked by the Associated Press.
The book, “Coins You Can Collect” by Burton Hobson, looks like it’s in remarkable shape considering how long it’s been away from its rightful home. And, based on the enclosed anonymous letter, the book has quite a story about its absence.
“Fifty years ago (yes 50!), a little girl checked me out of this library in 1971,” the letter opened. “At this time, she didn’t know they were going to move from Plymouth. Back then, kids weren’t told things like that. As you can see, she took very good care of me.”
According to the letter, the book moved from place to place with the original borrower over the years. The mysterious sender said she always intended to return it, but never got around to it. The book’s constant moves became a family legend over time.
“This became a running joke in my family. Each time we moved, they always asked me if I packed ‘the Plymouth Book,’” the letter writer explained in her note.
She also said the book had its own spot on her bookshelf wherever she lived, and that now that it was gone she would continue to keep a vacant spot on her shelf for it, Keller told Fox 56 WOLF, saying, “That was one of the things that made me cry.”
According to news station WNEP, people associated with the library said if the book had been returned on time, it would actually have been destroyed in a flood in 1972. Instead, after traveling through 14 states, the book found its way back to its original home, along with $20 to help cover at least some of the overdue fees racked up over the past 50 years.
Keller told the Citizens’ Voice she used the $20 to pay off a young mother’s overdue fees. This reinstated borrowing privileges for the woman’s children.
Keller said the book and the letter now have a place of honor on display in the library for everyone to see.
This story originally appeared on Simplemost. Checkout Simplemost for additional stories.