Book me


I’m not very good at getting library books back on time. In fact, my fines have probably bought various library systems more than 20 new books over the years. However, I was very surprised to get an e-mail from Alexandria (Virginia) Library several weeks ago telling me I had a book overdue. I’d returned that particular book, and I even knew the exact date. I borrowed the book for my French book club, and I returned it the day after the meeting through the book drop because the library had closed by the time I got there.

So I phoned the library and explained. The librarian was very understanding. The book must have been mis-shelved, he said, and he took it off my record.

Last weekend, I finally moved the tottering pile of books on the floor by my bed instead of vacuuming round them, and there among them was—that’s right, the missing book. The book I had returned. The book I clearly remember dropping through the book drop. The book some idiot in the library had mis-shelved, thereby temporarily impugning what’s left of my reputation as a responsible book-borrower.

A better person than I would have gone to the circulation desk, ‘fessed up, and paid the—by now quite large—fine. Instead, I sneaked the book in and mis-shelved it myself. It wasn’t one of my finer moments.

When I noticed, on the way out, the sign saying that security cameras were in operation, I immediately pictured the library police sitting in front of a bank of screens, watching me furtively slipping Les bouts de bois de Dieu in among the Raymond Chandler mysteries. (I can be so stupid—I could at least, for the sake of verisimilitude, have shelved it with the authors beginning with “S.” I almost went back to do that, but then I remembered what usually happens to a criminal who revisits the scene of the crime.)

I braved the library this afternoon, fully expecting to see a blurry video capture of my face on a “Wanted” poster taped to every wall and o be cuffed and frog-marched off to the dungeons when I handed over my books and library card at the check-out desk. “Okay, guv,” I would have said. “I dunnit and it’s a fair cop.”

But nothing like that happened. So far, I am still at large.


7 Responses to Book me

  1. MarieMcC says:

    Funny! I don’t think I would have fessed up, either. Ah, what won’t we do to avoid public humiliation?

  2. Elisabeth says:

    I would definitely have brought the book to the circulation desk. Once, I had promised a graduate school friend that I would return a book for her – which I did, on time. A couple of weeks after the next semester had started, this “friend” blasted me for not having returned her book. I walked myself to the library, and they later found the book – what else? Mis-helved. My so-called friend tried to apologized, but it was too late. She had refused to believe me. This woman betrayed me another time during our graduate school career, much more seriously than with the mis-shelved book incident, and I hated her forever for it. She, and this is absolutely amazing, became my “junior” colleague in the school where I teach, and everyone though that she was insane – which, inded, she is.

  3. passante says:

    MarieMcC —

    Clearly Elisabeth is a more ethical person than you or I! You’re right, I had to avoid public confession of the fact that I am (can this be?) not perfect. I will, though, give a contribution to the library—probably way in excess of the fine I avoided—to salve my conscience.

    Elisabeth —

    I love it when divine retribution … retributes. (I also love coining verbs.)

  4. oddmix says:

    LOL. I would have chucked it into the book drop.

    Somehow, though, I don’t think they put out APBs for people bringing books INTO the library.

  5. Kate says:

    There is a little larceny in the heart of each of us. Gives me a little comfort re. my own library transgressions. Libraries—they feed our souls and how do we treat them!! Actually, quite well in this courntry fortunately. I love your photo because it’s such a familiar, comfortable scene!

  6. Hi Passante,

    Library visits can be scary….recently I was unable to enter a library becuse staff claimed that my library card had expired – however, they insisted that I had an overdue fine from 2years ago!! I don’t hink i returned the books late….but with the passage of time I couldn’t recollect clearly enought to defend myself.

  7. Nathalie says:

    I’m a regular offender in that regard myself but I’d never thought of using that trick to avoid the fine! Loved the story.

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