Audiobook 42 years overdue returned to Library

A recent return of an overdue item occasioned quite the stir. Our local CBS news affiliate picked up the story from a social media post. The feature also got some love from national CBS and Inside Edition social media. Go figure. See the local story here.

An audiobook 42 years overdue was returned to the Johnson County Library. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain 6-record set dates back before the time of CDs and even audio cassettes. The vinyl records are meant to be played at 16-2/3 RPM, a format so unusual that not even the local Marr Sound Archive at UMKC has such a turntable.

The volume was returned Friday, March 30 at the Corinth Library, and quickly caught staff attention. "We can see the set was checked out in March and renewed in April of 1976," librarian Megan Bannen said.

Examination of the set shows it to be a recording produced for the American Publishing House for the Blind, under the auspices of the Library of Congress. The book was narrated by Burt Blackwell, who recorded more than 400 volumes for the APH. The backside of the record label includes braille titling.

Bannen posted a small tweet about the returned book, not expecting it to be such a popular subject. Within an hour, KCTV5 had contacted the library to report on the story. Their online post and broadcast story were picked up by the national CBS syndicate and the story was included online by Inside Edition!

The patron who returned the 42-years-overdue audiobook stopped by Corinth to introduce herself and give the backstory on the audiobook. She used to teach visually impaired students in Shawnee Mission in the late 60s and early 70s. When she moved away some 30 years ago, the item was packed away inadvertently. She returned to the Kansas City area recently, and her daughter saw the set and joked, “Uh, think you should finally return this to the library?” So, she did!

Many have been interested in the possible late fee for an audiobook that is 42 years overdue. "You know, I don’t know how much we were charging for overdue books in 1976,” Bannen said. “Currently, we charge $.30 a day, but we do cap at $6 an item. So the maximum fee for this item would be $6." Corinth Library manager Ken Werne reports that a West Coast donor, after seeing or hearing the story, this week mailed a check and paid the $6 fine for this item in full.

The item has been, at long last, officially weeded from the collection, and has been donated to the Friends of Johnson County Library. The Friends will sell the item, likely through their very successful online portal to raise funds to support Library programs and services.