A book checked out more than 100 years ago from the St. Paul Public Library recently found its way back. Overdue fines will not be enforced.
The title, "Famous Composers, Vol. 2" by Nathan Haskell Dole, dates to 1902. John Larson, digital library coordinator for the St. Paul Public Library, was the detective who traced the book's path. Studying dates inside the cover suggested that it was last checked out in 1919.
The book was not found in St. Paul. "It was returned in Hennepin County," said Larson, who has worked for the St. Paul Public Library for 25 years.
A patron who had been sorting through their mother's belongings turned it in to the library in St. Louis Park. They sent it to St. Paul through the interlibrary loan system, and Larson got his hands on it last week.
The roots of the St. Paul Public Library go back to the mid-19th century. The library moved to the Old Market Hall building on Seventh Street in 1900. A fire in 1915 destroyed the Market Hall building and most of the library's collection, which then totaled 160,000 books.
The new Central Library, which opened in 1917, was under construction at the time of the fire. The "Famous Composers" volume was presumably checked out at the time and spared from the blaze. The main location is now the George Latimer Central Library.
Even if the person who checked it out in 1919 wasn't likely long dead, the St. Paul Public Library no longer actually charges late fees, so no one is on the hook for what would be a theoretically whopping fine.
It's not decided what the St. Paul Public Library will do with the artifact.
"We haven't figured that out yet. I don't think it will get added to the circulating collection," Larson said.
Other mysteries may remain unanswered. For instance, does the library still have a copy of "Famous Composers, Vol. 1" on hand?
Larson was curious.
"That was the first thing I did," Larson said. His search of the current catalog turned up nothing.