New Jersey man returns borrowed book to his public library 75 years late

on Aug16
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Just file it under “better late than never.”

Bob Jablonski of Jersey City, N.J., was only 14 in 1947 when he checked out the book “Hitler,” by Oden Rudolph, from the James J. Ferris High School branch of the Jersey City Free Public Library, the Hudson Reporter noted last week.

Jablonski returned the book to the library 75 years later — at age 89, to be exact, according to the same outlet.

For a simple frame of reference, in 1947 — the year Jablonski checked the book out — Bell Laboratories invented the transistor, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball and England’s Princess Elizabeth announced her engagement to Lt. Philip Mountbatten.

Jablonski found the book when cleaning his family home, he told the Reporter.

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He returned the book in apparently perfect shape. 

It even had its original reference card tucked inside, said the Reporter.

Bob Jablonski, who grew up in Jersey City, N.J., returned a book to a library 75 years after he first took it out.

Bob Jablonski, who grew up in Jersey City, N.J., returned a book to a library 75 years after he first took it out.
(iStock)

“Staff anxiously became curious to see the book’s condition and learn more about Jablonski’s library experience in 1947,” said the Reporter, noting that Jablonski “does not recall the exact details” of his visit back in 1947.

The big question: What sort of late fee was required for a book that was 75 years overdue?

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As it turns out, the Jersey City Free Public Library eliminated overdue fines over a year ago, in Feb. 2021.

“The burdens of the fines placed on our patrons are significant, and we recognize overdue fines are a form of social inequity, which creates barriers to accessing library services, often for those who need it most,” the library’s director, Jeffrey Trzeciak, said in a statement last year when announcing the change. 

“We hope that going fine-free will help bring more community members to the library.”

By cutting out late-book fines, the Jersey City library became the largest fine- and fee-free institution in the Garden State, noted NJ.com at the time, adding, “Nationwide, hundreds of library systems have [already] made the switch.”

The New York Public Library in New York City also eliminated late fines last year.

“We’re happy to eliminate barriers that might prevent patrons from walking through our doors.”

“It’s wonderful to see patrons at branches across the country returning their overdue items,” the organization said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

“Since the New York Public Library eliminated late fines last year,” the library added, “we’ve seen an influx of returns, with original due dates spanning decades.”

“As our mission is to inspire lifelong learning,” the institution added, “we’re happy to eliminate barriers that might prevent patrons from walking through our doors.”

"When someone returns a book that they have borrowed from the library after two weeks or after 75 years, that is social responsibility in action," said Kerri Ward of the American Library Association. 

“When someone returns a book that they have borrowed from the library after two weeks or after 75 years, that is social responsibility in action,” said Kerri Ward of the American Library Association. 
(iStock)

The American Library Association (ALA), headquartered in Chicago, also weighed in on the N.J. book return many decades after its due date. 

“What is wonderful about libraries is that they both evidence and test our collective sense of social responsibility, the idea of give and take, the sense of reciprocity that resides in all of us,” Kerri Ward, interim director of communications and marketing at the ALA, told Fox News Digital via email.

The book return was an act of “recognizing that what makes this book or movie or laptop truly special is that it belongs not to me — but to all of us.”

“When someone returns a book that they have borrowed from the library after two weeks or after 75 years, that is social responsibility in action,” Ward added.

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She said Jablonski’s book return was an act of “recognizing that what makes this book or movie or laptop truly special is that it belongs not to me, but to all of us.”

Jablonski isn’t the only one, apparently, to have returned a long overdue book to a library recently.

Another individual brought a book back to a library 48 years after it was due. See the tweet just below, explaining the book boomerang.

And in Philadelphia, a patron recently “returned a book due in February of 1978,” according to this tweet just below.

Several people with direct personal knowledge of overdue books weighed in on the issue.

Jean Purcell of Columbia, Maryland, a former volunteer public school librarian, told Fox News Digital that it’s “never too late” to return an overdue library book.

She said that even if there is a late fee for the return, paying it off would be worth the resulting release from guilt.

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“Just think of the relief you will feel when that book is returned and you’ve paid your fee,” she said. “The stab of guilt you feel when you run across an overdue book can be pretty sharp.”

She added, “And someone else needs that book. Think of that.”

One librarian at a Boston-area elementary school called overdue books "old friends" that they're happy to welcome back.

One librarian at a Boston-area elementary school called overdue books “old friends” that they’re happy to welcome back.
(In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

A volunteer elementary school librarian from the Boston area told Fox News Digital, “Honestly, we’re just glad to get a book back when it’s returned late.”

“To us, they’re like old friends,” she also said. “For example, I remember I was insanely happy to see a ‘Curious George’ book back after two years overdue!” 

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“I would just avoid the library if that happened to me, to be honest,” a North Carolina college student also told Fox News Digital. “I hate to say that, but it’s the truth.”

He added, “My mom would make me take all my overdue high school library books over at the end of the year — it was pretty embarrassing.”

Jablonski escaped a late fee for his years-overdue book, thanks to the Jersey City Free Public Library's new policy — ever since Feb. of 2021 — in which no one pays late fee for overdue materials.  

Jablonski escaped a late fee for his years-overdue book, thanks to the Jersey City Free Public Library’s new policy — ever since Feb. of 2021 — in which no one pays late fee for overdue materials.  
(iStock)

The world’s largest fine for an overdue library book to date is $345.14, according to The Guinness Book of World Records website.

This was the amount owed “at two cents a day” for the poetry book, “Days and Deeds,” which was checked out of Kewanee Public Library in Kewanee, Illinois, in April 1955 by Emily Canellos-Simms, the organization noted.

“Although the book was due back 19 April 1955, Emily found it in her mother’s house 47 years later and presented the library with a check for overdue fines,” the site added.

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As for the Jersey City Free Public Library, the leadership there is just glad to have their book back. 

They also encourage everyone who borrows their books and materials to return late books and materials.

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“If anyone finds themselves in a similar situation to Mr. Jablonski, do not worry about owing thousands of dollars in fines,” assistant director Kate Davis of the Jersey City Free Public Library told the Hudson Reporter. 

She added, “Even after 70 years, Mr. Jablonski returned the book without owing anything, and so can you.”



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