Overdue Book From 1946 Finally Returned to Silver Spring Library

Silver Spring Library’s Surprise Letter from Toronto

Remember the last time you returned your library books and they were a couple of weeks late? Remember the guilt? How would you feel if you returned a book that was 73 years late?

Well, the Silver Spring Library has been reunited with a children’s book borrowed in 1946.

According to Anita Vassallo, the acting director of Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL), the Silver Spring Library received a letter mailed from Toronto, Canada in January. The letter contained an overdue library book.

It’s worth noting that it’s nothing new for MCPL to receive an overdue book in the mail.

“We do receive [books] through the mail that are overdue and some of them have been quite overdue,” said Vassallo.

Sometimes people will send overdue library books they find after moving to a new area; other times family members pass away, and someone will find their old library books and mail them back.

In the case of the book returned from Toronto, this book was the most overdue book Vassallo has seen returned to an MCPL library.

The children’s book that was returned is called “The Postman,” and it was published in 1929.

The sender of the book said in a letter to the library that her parents borrowed the book from the old Silver Spring Library in 1946. At the time, she was a toddler.

“This is certainly the oldest thing that I have ever seen come back to us,” said Vassallo.

What’s the Fine for an Overdue Book of 73 Years?

Returning a book that’s 73 years old is just asking for a big library fine, right?

Well, not quite. According to Vassallo, MCPL has no fines on children’s materials, and “the maximum fee for any book is $15.”

So, luckily, the book sender will not be fined for her 26,280 days-past-due book (this is a rough estimate).

What Happens Now to ‘The Postman’?

Although “The Postman” returned home to the Silver Spring Library, the book won’t be available for people to borrow because it’s “not in good condition.” The book will, however, live on in MCPL history.

“We’ll probably keep it here in [MCPL’s] administrative offices,” said Vassallo.

The MCPL staff has enjoyed “The Postman” because it’s truly a throwback to the 1920s.

In the book, a little girl goes to a New York Post Office to mail a letter to her grandmother, who lives in an Illinois village. The book details the postman’s journey to deliver the letter to Mary’s grandmother (he wears an old fashioned flight suit!). At the end of the book, Mary’s grandmother receives the letter, and in return, she bakes cookies to mail back to Mary.

Vassallo said, “The book itself is really fun because of the age.”

MCPL Is Already Familiar With ‘The Postman’s’ Illustrator

According to Vassallo, MCPL doesn’t currently own any other books by Charlotte Kuh, author of “The Postman.” However, they do own a number of books illustrated by “The Postman’s” illustrator, Kurt Wiese.

The most famous book that MCPL has in their collection, illustrated by Wiese is “The Story About Ping,” written by Marjorie Flack. It’s about a duck who lives with his family on a boat on the Yang-Tze River.

The Letter Sent to Silver Spring Library

Here’s the letter included with the “The Postman” that was sent to Silver Spring Library. Click the tweet to enlarge the text.

Pictures of Overdue Book, ‘The Postman’ 

Here are some photos of the book “The Postman.” These photos are courtesy of MCPL. The captions for these photos are from MCPL’s Flickr account.

  • Property of Silver Spring Library: The Silver Spring Library was located in the Blair House from 1934 to 1957.

  • The Postman by Charlotte Kuh: This book was borrowed from the Silver Spring Library in 1946 and returned in January, 2019.


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Deirdre Byrne

About Deirdre Byrne

Deirdre Byrne is a social media coordinator for Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at dbyrne@mymcmedia.org or on twitter at @DeirdreByrneMCM.


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