Library Book Returned Nearly 81 Years Past Due Date

A library book returned 81 years later

A library book around 81 years overdue was found in the walls of a home in Albany, Oregon. Hasso Herring

(ABC News) — Contractors renovating a 116-year-old home in Albany, Oregon, made an unlikely discovery when an old library book came tumbling out of the home’s drywall.

The book – a 1907 edition of “American Railway Transportation” by Emory R. Johnson – was in near-perfect condition when it was found. Still intact was a library card that was discovered inside the book’s back cover pocket.

The 434-page book was returned by the contractors to Albany Public Library late last month. Since then, a local man, Hasso Hering, has spent his time trying to figure out how the book ended up inside the house’s walls.

“I like riding my bike and I have certain routes and I’ve kept an eye on this old house for years,” Hering, 72, told ABC News. “The contractor knew I was interested in the old house and he told me he found an old book in the drywall.”

Hering, the former editor of the local Albany Democrat-Herald newspaper, visited the library to look at the book, one he described an “academic tome” about the U.S. railway system. When the librarian gave him the book to keep, Herring got to work researching.

“The library card showed that this particular borrower had been very conscientious about taking out books and returning them,” said Hering, who found the name D.W. Lovett stamped on the card.

The exact year was not given on the card, but Herig’s investigation led him to believe the book was checked out on April 24, 1935.

Herig scoured the library’s backlog of city directories and found a person by the name of Dallas W. Lovett whose profession was listed as the yardman of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

“I figure he must have checked out the book as part of his training and interest,” Herig said.

How the book ended up in the home’s walls remains a mystery. Herig said a woman lived in the house from 1935 until her death a few years ago.

The address on the library card for D.W. Lovett was one block away from the house where the book was found, according to Herig, who wrote about his discovery on his own website.

Herig said in his research, he could not find an obituary for Lovett. The Albany Public Library confirmed to ABC News that the book was returned in 2016, nearly 81 years past its due date.

The fee at the time for an overdue book was one cent per day, bringing the overdue fee total to around $295.

“They no longer have any use for that book,” Herig said of the library. “That’s why it’s sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to crack it open.”

“When I have the time, I might read a little bit more of it,” he said.

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