Lent 2021, Day 26: Overdue, but appreciated.

The book of shame (along with Betty Diamond’s letter to the library). [Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times]

I found this story at The New York Times by Sasha von Oldershausen utterly charming:

A vintage children’s hardback turned up in the mailroom of the Queens Public Library in Auburndale recently. The book was “Ol’ Paul, the Mighty Logger,” by Glen Rounds, a collection of Paul Bunyan tall tales. According to the date stamped on the borrowing card inside, it was about 23,000 days late.

Betty Diamond, of Madison, Wis.,had sent it back after more than 63 years, along with a $500 donation to the Queens Public Library, which more than covered the late fees.

As a girl, Betty had been “too ashamed to go to the library with an overdue book,” she recalled. So, “Ol’ Paul” ended up staying with her as she grew up, establishing a career in academia and settling in the Midwest.

Betty was only 10 when she checked out the book, and over years of schooling and various moves, the book traveled with her. She refused to throw it out since she holds literature in high regard- so much so that she became a professor to teach it.

As an adult, she kept the book tucked among the many others she’s collected in her home, occasionally coming across its red spine while searching for something else. But recently, she decided to “make amends.” Ms. Diamond, now 74, called her old library to let officials know of her plan and to ask that the book be preserved. Then she put “Ol’ Paul” — along with a note and check — in the mail.

Betty Diamond, at 13, on the left; and at 11, around the time she checked out the book, sitting in her front yard in Queens, on the right. [Lauren Justice/ The New York Times]

This month, the Queens Public Library celebrates its 125th anniversary. Like many institutions, the city’s public libraries have suffered financially during the coronavirus outbreak. Much of the Queens Public Library’s budget for 2020 had to be reallocated to purchase P.P.E. Mr. Buron anticipates another tough year ahead, though he doesn’t see the public library system going anywhere soon. “The library is one of the last places that allows everyone to come in for free,” he said.

For Ms. Diamond, it’s bigger than that. “It just seems to me like such a statement of faith in humanity,” she said, “just giving people books and believing they will return them.”

Read the whole thing here.

gimme some more
  • Do you have any overdue library books? Or maybe you never returned one borrowed from a friend? How about a sweater or jacket? Time to make a call or text to find out how to (or if you should) return them.
  • Many libraries have been hit hard over the past year. If you have any books you’d like to donate, find out if any of your local libraries would like them.

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