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Talk about an overdue item: Book returned to Fergus library at least 50 years late

Chief librarian Rebecca Hine says the book itself is 100 years old, but determining exactly when it was taken out is more difficult

FERGUS – A piece of history has been returned to the Fergus Branch of the Wellington County Library. 

Chief librarian Rebecca Hine said earlier this month a book was returned by a woman who had been going through her mother-in-law's items. She had informed staff that she was returning a book that was quite old.

Based on pandemic protocols, the book was quarantined and staff did not realize what they received until examining it later.

The woman had returned a copy of Martin Chuzzlewit, a lesser known work by Charles Dickens that is a satirical portrayal of selfishness and commentary about the 1800s-era United States. 

Hine said the book itself is over 100 years old, but determining when it became part of the Fergus library collection or taken out is more difficult to pinpoint.

She explained that the front cover has a Fergus Public Library stamp inside it, which the branch had been called since 1895. 

The carnegie branch of the Fergus library was built and opened in 1911 and Hine said it could be part of that original collection. However some details put it a few decades ahead of that.

“I don’t think that this card pocket looks that old to me but the one telling thing is the fine for this item is two cents per day,” Hine said. 

A basic Google search revealed that this was a common fine at libraries in the 1940s and 1950s. 

“There’s no other indication in the book to tell us exactly when it would have been checked out,” Hine said. 

“The pocket in the front is very, very old but I don’t think we can determine exactly how old."

Hine said they aren't entirely sure who brought the book back either or who her mother-in-law is. Still, this wouldn't necessarily pinpoint when it was taken out because it could have been taken out by someone else and ended up in the woman's possession.

A two cents per day fine would add up over a number of years. In theory, if it has been out for 100 years, the fine would be well over $700.

“We’re not going to collect that, we actually now cap our fines per item at $5,” Hine said.

The book will be on display amongst a small collection of items from the original Fergus library. 

Overall, Hine said it’s great to have a piece of history back at the library. 

“It was published right around 1900, it’s been through two world wars, two pandemics, a depression,” Hine said. “It’s got a very interesting history.”