Decades-overdue library books returned with a note: 'I am embarrassed'

Several books and an anonymous handwritten note were dropped off at the New York Public Library in Midtown recently.

"'I am 75 years old now and these books have helped me through motherhood and my teaching career,'" New York Public Library President Tony Marx said, reading the letter. "'Enclosed are books I have borrowed and kept in my house for 28 to 50 years.'"

So how could someone hold on to library books that long?

"You know, everyone loves their books," Marx said. "I guess she kind of forgot they needed to come back into the system so that other people could enjoy them."

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In fact, since the New York Public Library eliminated fines for overdue books in October 2021, it has been flooded with returns. 

"By eliminating fines, that meant 400,000 New Yorkers who want to use their library, had library cards, and used the library but had stopped because of the fines they'd accumulated — those 400,000 people, immediately welcome back," Marx said.

The author of that anonymous note also wrote, "I am grateful and also extremely embarrassed for being selfish for not sharing these books & returning them back to the NYPL!!!"

Don't be embarrassed, Marx said. Most of us have returned library books late. And the New York Public Library is just happy to have people back inside its libraries.

"There's nothing to be embarrassed about — loving books," Marx said. "That's what we're here for."

An excerpt of the note.