Saint Helena, CA

Overdue book returned to California library after nearly 100 years

B.R. Shenoy
LibraryPhoto byengin akyurtonUnsplash
“The overdue bill is estimated at about $1,700, but "I don't think we would've charged that much at any point," Chris Kreiden, director of the library, told California television station KSBW.

In a remarkable turn of events, a library book that had been checked out for an astonishing 96 years has finally made its way back to its rightful place.

The book in question, "A History of the United States" by Benson Lossing, was recently returned to the St. Helena Public Library in Napa Valley, California, by local resident Jim Perry.

This intriguing story unveils the serendipitous discovery, the book's long journey through generations, and the library's welcoming response.

The extraordinary tale begins when Jim Perry, a 75-year-old resident of St. Helena, stumbled upon the historic book while decluttering his home. During the process of unpacking old boxes that once belonged to him and his late wife, Perry encountered a box of books that had been stored in a cool area of their house.

Among these literary treasures was "A History of the United States," a book that had been in his family since it was initially checked out in 1927.

The significance of Perry's find is magnified by the fact that the book was first published in 1892, making it over a century old.

Its age became evident when Perry handed over the fragile artifact to the St. Helena Public Library. The book's condition had deteriorated over time, with its spine missing and pages beginning to fall apart. Chris Kreiden, the director of the library, expressed amazement at the book's longevity and stated that it was the oldest one he had ever encountered, per The Washington Post.

What makes this return even more remarkable is the change in library policies that occurred in 2019. The St. Helena Public Library abolished its nickel-per-day fines, providing an opportunity for Perry to avoid hefty late fees that would have amounted to nearly $1,800, according to the St. Helena Star.

The library staff, upon receiving the long-overdue book, found the incident captivating and viewed it as a fascinating piece of history reemerging.


The return of a library book checked out over 96 years ago highlights the significance of preserving our literary heritage and the power of community.

This heartwarming story serves as a reminder to appreciate the treasures within our libraries and to rectify past oversights, no matter how much time has passed. It exemplifies the enduring spirit of learning and the importance of fostering a love for literature.


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A seasoned content creator with an M.S. in Toxicology, specializing in unique narratives, heartwarming animal tales, and local news.

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