Senior librarian Matthew Bingham holds up the infamous LP soundtrack that was returned to the GVPL in December 2017. (Photo courtesy Jessica Woollard)

Quirky returns, decades overdue items keep things interesting at Greater Victoria libraries

The most overdue book was returned more than 80 years late

Many unusual things have been returned to the Greater Victoria Public Libraries (GVPL) since the first branch opened in 1889.

GVPL now has 12 branches throughout 10 of the municipalities in the Capital Regional District. In 2018 alone, there were 6.6 million visits to the branches and the library website – 6 million physical items and 1.3 million digital files were in circulation.

READ ALSO: Dog’s clever apology letter brings laughs to Saanich librarians

Sometimes, when the millions of items are returned to the library, they’re accompanied by unusual items. Staff have come across personal photos, pressed flowers, Lego people and even a T.V. remote when going through books in the return bin, said GVPL communications officer Jessica Woollard. Like detectives, staff work to return the items to their owners.

In 2016, a book was returned to the Bruce Hutchinson branch with teeth-marks and an apology note tucked inside written from the perspective of Kairos the dog. In the notes, Kairos promised his owner would pay the fine, Woollard noted with a laugh.

She also pointed out that sometimes items are never returned – after several months the accumulated late fees surpass the cost of the item and it’s considered gone for good.

Every once in awhile, items that have been overdue for decades find their way back to the library. The GVPL’s longest overdue book was returned 82 years late. Someone had borrowed Stephen Leacock’s “Sunshine sketches of a small town” in 1916 – during the First World War – while visiting family in Fairfield, Woollard explained. In 1998, a woman came across it in her attic and returned it to the library even though it was more than eight decades late.

READ ALSO: Saanich Centennial library branch closed for at least three weeks

In 2017, someone else returned an old LP record speculated to have been borrowed in 1959, Woollard said. The record was the soundtrack to the film “Anatomy of a Murder” with music by Duke Ellington. The library stopped lending records in the early 1990s, but the movie is still in circulation on DVD. The record is currently housed at the Juan de Fuca branch.

The record and other items with unique stories are kept in the library’s collection like artifacts because of their historical value, Woollard said.

The quirky tales keep things interesting for staff and they have library patrons to thank. On Dec. 7, each GVPL branch is hosting a cookies and crafts open house from 2 to 4 p.m. to show appreciation for those who visit the libraries.


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