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The Longest Overdue Library Book in American History

Many readers visit the library to peruse the bookshelves and find a few good books to read, knowing that those books must be returned usually within two or three weeks. However, if the book is late, it falls on the library’s responsibility to send a late-due reminder. However, quite often, the borrower forgets to turn them back in by the due date, even if they received a notice, resulting in a monetary penalty. The later the book is returned, the greater the patron reader will have to owe.

All of us have returned books late, even very late. Would you believe that George Washington, himself never returned two books he checked out from the New York Society Library on October 5, 1789. Washington? God-fearing first president and founding father of our nation? Yes. Even the best of us forget to do the mundane things in life. Their titles were: Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel and Vol. 12 of the 14-volume Commons Debates, containing transcripts from Britain’s House of Commons.

Both were supposed to be turned in a month later in November of 1789, but there was no sign of Washington the date they were due. Under the rules of the library, the books should have been handed back by November 2nd of that same year, and their borrower and presumably, his descendants have been liable to fines of a few cents a day ever since.

Law of Nations was finally returned to the New York library on May 20, 2010. Although the books had been lost for 221 years, the library staff never twiddled their thumbs, waiting for the distinguished patriot or his descendants to return the books. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until 1934 the library made the discovery that his books were overdue. There was no fine, but if Washington had returned the book, years later, the total amount he would have owed would have totaled $300,000. But the library did not fine anyone, even old George’s descendants.

Other prominent leaders returned books to the same library before or on their due dates. How could Washington forget? He had three weeks to return the books. It should be noted that he became president in April 1789 until 1797. Washington checked out those books early in his term when he was actively serving his country. Perhaps he was never notified that the late books were past due, but I guess we can forgive old George for not returning a couple of library books.

Library Interior Design Speaks of Serenity


The key ingredient in all library interior design is serenity. An area that is conducive to studying and reading should be the first and foremost consideration in library interior design. Comfort is a consideration as well, but not the main emphasis. You don’t want to make someone so comfortable that they want to camp out in library and say, take a nap. Because if they are too comfortable, they might be tempted to fall asleep. Unfortunately, sleepy patrons tend to frequent libraries much too often. Bright color schemes and good lighting will help eliminate a few of the more exhausted patrons. In general, however, the focus in Library interior design is on the gentle atmosphere.

Key Elements of Library Design

The first step when designing a library interior will be for the designer to speak to the staff in order to determine the needs of the library. They need to learn if there are any specific elements that must taken into consideration. For instance, is it a study library, a reading library, a children’s library or a combination? The designer must become familiar with the needs and wants of the client before launching into a design project. It will be advisable to research the history of the library, the people flow and percentage of ethnic groups.

Library interior designers, as with all designers nowadays, are required to be sure that every design they execute is handicap accessible. Color scheme and layout will be next on the list of elements to be devised. After these have been chosen, then the designer moves to the selection of furniture, fabric, carpet, lighting and accessory manufacturers. The main furniture and accessory components in library interior design will include moveable shelving, reading tables, case goods, computer furniture, book stacks, seating, four-post shelving and book detection systems.

If a certain atmosphere is to be interwoven with the library interior design, then the colors, case goods, carpeting, lighting and some of the furniture will need to be incorporated into the design of the library interior. Of course, if the library design and architecture interior design you are creating is in a home, the overall concept will be totally different than a public or a corporate library. It is immensely easier for any interior designer to be able to design a library interior from scratch with a new and empty structure than to refurbish an existing one. However, a highly-skilled and talented interior designer will find library interior design stimulating no matter how that project comes about.

The Value of a Library Card

If you still have a public lending library in your town or city, you are one of the fortunate ones. In the last few years, library closures – especially in the United States and the United Kingdom – are common.

Budget cuts brought on by the current economic crisis is one reason for the closures. Another is very possibly the way reading has changed. So many people are now only reading on their electronic devices rather than bound books. Personally, I don’t view closing of public lending libraries as progress. It makes me sad.

As a child, my time off was spent in a library. I loved the sight and feel of a good book. My library card was important to me for it represented many things that I wanted and needed: education, a look into adventures, and an escape when life was a little rough. I still feel that way.

As an adult, when my husband and I moved to a small town in Texas, it was the library that sustained us for weeks while we were waiting on the internet to be installed in our home. Our access to friends, family and work was through the computers that had been added as an upgrade to a public lending library. That is the library card that I have and treasure today.

Many people have been able to take advantage of the availability of computers, books and DVDs in their public library. Going to a theater can be costly. Renting movies is an expense, but the local library provides these services without charge.

If you are one of the lucky ones, why don’t you visit your local library soon and let your city officials know that you would like to see it stay around. It not only represents the good old days. It is a great way to save money.