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Overdue by decades: A rented book returns to Lake Elmo Library 47 years later



LAKE ELMO, Minn. – A library book finally made its way back home to the Lake Elmo branch of the Washington County Library after 47 years of being rented out.

Karen Rodricks is a library services supervisor at the Lake Elmo branch. She opened a package that arrived on her desk earlier this month to find “The Chilton Foreign Car Repair Manual” from the 1970s that her branch used to rent out.

Inside the front cover there was a handwritten note that said:

In the mid 1970s, I was living in Lake Elmo and working on an old Mercedes Benz. I took out this book for reference. A few months later, I moved and apparently the book got packed up in the move.

47 years later, I found it in a trunk with other interesting things from the 1970s. It’s a little overdue, but I thought you might want it back.

My apologies to anyone in Lake Elmo who was working on an old Benz in the last 47 years. I probably can’t afford the overdue charge, but I will send you enough for another book.



The anonymous sender did not include a return address, but explained why it was never returned. They also included $200 cash.

“This is the prize, the note,” said Rodricks, who values ​​the story behind the book’s journey more than the cash inside.

Washington County Library branches no longer charge overdue fees, and they have other copies of the manual at other branches. Instead, that $200 will be reinvested back into the Lake Elmo library branch.

“The library always needs money [laughs]and we can always, we probably will put it towards books,” said Rodricks.

In a time when everything is digital and libraries don’t get as many people renting physical copies, it was nice for Rodricks to see a stranger remind them how much they still care.

“That just shows how much he values ​​the library,” said Rodricks.

Unfortunately, the book is not in good enough condition to lend out again, but Rodricks plans to save the note.