Library book returned 50 years late

David Black returns the book to library advisor Sarah Stewart. Picture: Ian Georgeson
David Black returns the book to library advisor Sarah Stewart. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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YOU would have expected this library user to have been brought to book after returning a volume 50 years late.

But despite potentially facing more than £2700 in late fees, a local arts writer has managed to get off scot-free – thanks to an amnesty that saw more than 4000 overdue books returned.

David Black, of High Street, took advantage of the recent city council fines amnesty to return a copy of Goya by Dr Xavier de Salas to the Fine Art Library on George IV Bridge, which he first borrowed on September 22, 1962.

In total, the book was overdue by 18,417 days, which according to Edinburgh City Council’s late fees structure of 15p a day would mean a hefty bill of £2762.55.

The 60-year old had borrowed the book, which traces the life and career of the 18th-century Spanish artist, using his mother and former town councillor Winnie Black’s ticket.

However, the budding writer and artist soon forgot about the book and, despite several reminders over the years, it took the recently publicised amnesty to jar him into returning the volume.

He said: “I was only a schoolboy at the time and completely forgot to return it. It would pop up every now and again over the years but each time it would slip my mind to actually do it.

“Two years ago I even attended a showing of the play Underneath the Lintel which is about a librarian who sets out to find whoever anonymously returned a library book that is 113 years overdue.

“When I read about the fines amnesty I decided that I must do it, once and for all, if only to see the librarian’s face. It feels good to have finally returned it after all these years.”

David’s book wasn’t the only surprise during the week-long amnesty, which ran from February 9-February 15, as stunned bosses received more than 4000 books in total. The gesture was made in an effort to attract new members, as well as welcoming back those who have not used their library for a while – it is understood that hundreds of lapsed library users signed up during the week.

David, who has worked as an arts correspondent for a host of national newspapers, added: “I’ve been a keen library user all my life, they are a great resource.

“As a boy I drew great inspiration from this book which features a host of Goya’s illustrations; although I never intended to keep it for so long. I’m glad they finally have their book back – I can now sleep a little more soundly at night.”

All fines for late books, CDs or DVDs were written off at all libraries across the Capital. However, the amnesty did not apply to fees for damaged items, or normal loan charges for CDs and DVDs – a cap of £10 is now imposed on overdue books by city libraries.

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s culture and sport convener, said: “This is a wonderful story and, of course, the Fine Art Library are very happy to have their book back after 50 years! The fines amnesty for National Libraries Day has proven a real success. We’ve been delighted at how many people have taken the opportunity to come back into their local library.”

The borrowers and the lenders

THE copy of Goya is by no means the most overdue book to be returned to a library – in December 2011 a copy of the Victorian miscellany Good Words for 1888 was returned after 123 years.

It was first borrowed from the Troutbeck Institute library in Cumbria shortly after it was first published. Also in 2011, Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker returned a copy of Nine Modern Poets to his old school after 30 years. The singer confessed to an audience of pupils at Sheffield’s City School.

Newtongrange woman Margaret White also took advantage of a fines amnesty to escape penalty after she found a copy of Agatha Christie’s The Hound of Death, while clearing out her great aunt Agnes Moffat’s home in 1995.