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The Beatles Get Back to Texas Library … 40 Years Late

Beatles cassette at SAPL.

Have you ever loved something that you’ve checked out from the library SO MUCH that you forgot to return it—for more than four decades?!

A cassette tape that was checked out 44 years ago from San Antonio Public Library's (SAPL) Westfall branch was finally returned this month to SAPL. The tape (or “phonotape,” according to the packaging), which features an interview with John Lennon and Paul McCartney describing the “magic” of The Beatles, was left anonymously in the library’s return drop box.

SAPL posted about the miraculous reappearing tape on its Facebook page November 20, and the library is definitely having fun with it, making light of the return time and the hypothetical late fees that could have accrued if SAPL hadn’t eliminated fines in 2021.

“Can you believe this recording of The Beatles was checked out from Westfall Branch Library 44 years ago and returned to us recently?”

The post continued: “Imagine all the potential fines there could have been! Luckily, we have been fine-free since October 2021, so even if you have an item to return that’s a year late, a decade late, and even four decades late, we will still accept it at NO charge!”

A returning trend

Long-overdue items have been finding their ways back to libraries at an increasing rate lately.

Karen Rodricks, senior library services supervisor at the Lake Elmo branch of Washington County (Minn.) Library System, found a package waiting for her when she arrived at work on November 2. She opened it to find a carefully wrapped car manual, $200, and a letter stating:

“In the mid-1970s, I was living in Lake Elmo and was 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. Forty-seven years later I found it in a trunk with other interesting things from the ‘70s. 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.”

Rodricks told MPR News that the library was likely unaware that the car manual was missing, as it does not keep records dating back that far. Washington County libraries waived overdue fines last year, so the anonymous patron would only owe a replacement cost for the manual. Roderick says the $200 more than covers that and the funds will be used as a donation to the library.

Do you have any fun stories about overdue library books at your library—or ones that you’ve returned yourself? Email, and let us know! You can even request anonymity, if you’d like!

Photo: Beatles cassette and packaging that was returned to San Antonio Public Library after 44 years. Credit: San Antonio Public Library.

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