Better late than never? Library book due in 1949 returned

Specified return date to Tralee library for ‘Ruby of a Thousand Dreams’ was 30/11/49


A library book borrowed no less than 67 years ago has been returned to the county library in Kerry after an amnesty on book fines was declared.

The specified return date to the then Carnegie Library, Tralee, for the book, Ruby of a Thousand Dreams, was 30/11/49.

It was handed back to the county library, now located at Moyderwell, Tralee on Wednesday - 30/11/2016.

A new national computerised system has set library book fines at 5 cent a day.

If calculated for each day missing, this would mean the truant book has clocked up more than €1,200 in fines, library staff calculated, not considering currency changes.

Biggest challenge

The biggest challenge for library staff was trying to integrate the well-read book into the modern library system.

“This was pre-computerisation, we couldn’t check it in!” said senior executive librarian Nóirín O’Keeffe.

Written in 1933 by popular author Roland Daniel, the title is an adventure-romance set in London and is subtitled “Another Adventure of Wu Fang”.

It was much borrowed, the still-intact library card shows. In the era before data protection, the names of previous borrowers appear and they include a school, Drumnacurra NS, near Causeway.

It was found in the attic of a house in the wider Tralee area. The person who returned the book does not want their identity revealed.

However, the mystery of who it was who did not return the book 67 years ago does not end there.

There is no direct link between the last person who borrowed it and the person who returned it, Ms O’Keeffe said.

“Somebody was cleaning out their grandmother’s house and was aware of the fines amnesty,” she said.

Changed hands

The house had changed hands in the years since, so it was not their grandmother who borrowed it.

The library had announced the amnesty on fines because it is National Library Week and in order to get books back into circulation, Ms O’Keeffe said.

The most overdue book in Tralee these days is regularly the Official Driver Theory Test, Ms O’Keeffe revealed.

“Either they pass the test, or they fail the test, but sometimes people fail to return the book.”

People borrow them at short notice and in a panic to study for their test, and often forget to return them on time.

“There usually is a long waiting list for these books so it would be helpful to other borrowers if these were returned promptly,” she said – adding that overdue book are not a major problem in the county.

Ruby of a Thousand Dreams will go on display at Tralee Library with a display saying: “It’s never too late to return your library books!”