Friday, March 8

Confessions of A Book Thief by Liz Flaherty

It's Return Borrowed Books Week. I'm not sure how many libraries are honoring this, but even if yours isn't, go ahead...bite the bullet and take it back. Grovel a little. Pay the fine. Blame your dog for hiding it, although my experience with working in a library tells me most people blame their children.

I borrow books from my sister and sister-in-law. I also tell them I'll probably forget to give them back. They shrug and lend them to me anyway. Most people aren't like this. If you borrow their books, they are just like those pesky libraries--they want them back!

There was a time when I went to the library and was informed by librarian and friend Terri Hall that I'd had three books out for a long, looong time. Like years. No, I said mildly, I have not. I brought them back. I'm sure of it. Almost sure. Maybe...could I have more time? Look for them? We'd moved since I borrowed them from the library--surely I would have noticed if I had three library books in with the way-too-many other books I had.

Terri hiked an eyebrow--believe me, the woman has that eyebrow thing down pat--and said something like, "You've already had them three years. Do you think you'll find them now?"

But I hadn't looked for them because I'd brought them back! They were some of Dorothy Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax books. I loved Mrs. Pollifax. I would never keep her stories from someone else enjoying them.

Terri crossed her arms. I stared at the floor, shuffled my feet around, and wrote a check for the three books the library mistakenly thought I still had. I left in a huff. Well, not a huff, but surely feeling put upon.

I found the books much later. All together. Probably in a bag that I intended to take back to the library. I did take them back then, and donated them, and apologized.

When my first book was published in 1999, I found a book on my shelves that had from yet another library. I can't even say I thought I'd taken it back, because I knew I hadn't. I did, however, have it long enough I'd forgotten all about it. I mailed it back to the library along with a copy of Always Annie and yet another abject apology. Several days later I received a thank you note assuring me I was forgiven.

These are the only ones of my book-borrowing transgressions I'm admitting to. Do you have any you'd like to share? To, you know, clear your conscience?

When I worked at the library, I saw several books returned long after they'd been listed as missing in the catalog. A few times, they were ones found after their borrowers had passed away. I'm very afraid that will happen after I'm gone, too. More apologies ahead of time.

None of my stories, however, come anywhere close to this one


  1. Um...Most likely, although when I packed up all my books for the move, I didn't find anything that belonged to anyone else, so I may be clean on this one.

    1. I hope I am now (except for the ones from my sister and sister-in-law--they're everywhere!) I remember there being a book at home that had the inscription "This book has been officially thrown out of the Gilead High School Library." My little lapses were just pre-throwing-out, right? :-)

  2. A number of years ago, KB went to OSU campus to visit some friends and left her computer bag on the front seat of her car. Big mistake. Her window was busted in and the bag was stolen.

    Fortunately for her, she had her computer with her and her bag was full of library books for a research project. LOL I always imagine a Karma fairy swooping down on the thief and just cackling away when he discovers he stole library books.

    She had to pay the library $30 for the books, but at least she didn't lose her iBook.

  3. One of the nice things about when we lived in a small town was that the librarian was neighbor and her daughter and my daughter were friends. So when I returned a book late, she never fined me.

    Then we moved to the big city and there's no forgiveness on the fines any more. Oh well. Loved your post, Liz.

    1. And fines have grown! What used to be a nickel a day has become a quarter!