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Woman Returns Overdue Library Book That She Borrowed 56 Years Ago

While preparing for her O-Levels, Lesley Harrison, 70, borrowed the German language textbook "Ich Lerne Deutsch."

A pensioner has finally returned an overdue library book which is 56 years late – and was spared a £2,000 ($2,433) fine.

Lesley Harrison, 70, borrowed a German language textbook called “Ich Lerne Deutsch” while studying her O-Levels.

Then 14, Lesley took the book out for a three-week loan from Whitley Bay Library in Whitley Bay, England in April 1966 but forgot to return it.

Lesley remembers studying the book just months before England’s famous World Cup Final win against West Germany. After finishing her exams, Lesley moved away from the area and was too scared to return the book because she couldn’t afford the late fees.

Lesley Harrison, 70 with the overdue library book. PHOTO BY NORTH TYNESIDE COUNCIL/SWNS

Lesley, who lives in Shiremoor, in Tyne and Wear, has now returned the book to the library. The 56-year late book racked up a £2,000 fine with 3p being charged every week it wasn’t returned – but library staff waived the late fee.

Lesley returned the book to Killingworth Library after hearing that the council had abolished its late charges and was offering a prize for the most overdue book in North Tyneside.

Lesley said: “I was doing O-Level German at Whitley Bay Grammar School and went on to do A-Level German, as well as French, and I later taught myself Spanish.

“I don’t remember very many words of German, but knew I hadn’t brought the book back and when I moved out of my parents’ house, I thought I wouldn’t be able to afford the fine, so it stayed in a drawer.

“We moved around a lot, and it always came with me. When I heard about the amnesty, I thought ‘I’m sure I’ve got an old book lying around somewhere,’ and I know the library staff were shocked and amused when I brought it in. It is still in a good condition though. I do look after my books.”

The retired civil servant, who once considered a career as a librarian, added: “I got married in 74, and we moved away from North Tyneside.

“We came back in 2013, and since then I’ve been very good at bringing books back; I don’t think I’ve ever paid a fine.

Lesley Harrison’s overdue library book. PHOTO BY NORTH TYNESIDE COUNCIL/SWNS

“I’ve been scrupulous to bring the books back or renew them online.”

Councillor Sandra Graham, cabinet member responsible for libraries, said: “Just for fun, we did a rough calculation of the late fee that a book 56 years overdue could have incurred, and it would have come to more than £2,000.

“The book is in great condition, and I want to thank Lesley for bringing it back. We’ve had such a positive response to our decision to scrap fines and this is the oldest book we’ve had back by some distance. Better late than never.”

The world’s most overdue library book is “Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum Septentrionalium, Vicinorumque Populorum Diversi” which was returned to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 288 years late.


Produced in association with SWNS Talker.

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