Thursday, 13 February 2014

27 years' guilt; signed, sealed, delivered.

Today I returned this lush book to its rightful owners.
27 years late.

I'll back it up a bit.

27 years ago, or thereabouts, I borrowed this book from Ballarat Library, part of the Central Highlands Regional Library Service.

It's a hardcover illustrated edition of The Hobbit, and it is so lush. Full page colour illustrations all the way through. Magnificently done, atmospheric and sympathetic to the sweeping story.

I borrowed it, then I moved house. Again and again. No, we were't on Witness Protection, but sometimes it felt like it. During the 1980s we lived in Smythesdale, Ballarat, Mt Pleasant, Ballarat again, Corindhap, Buninyong, Maldon and then back to Smythesdale. Each time we moved, I'd spot this book on the shelf, feel a huge pang of guilt that it should go back to the library, then feel scared that the late fee would bankrupt my parents (and see me grounded) ... so it would end up in a box and find its way to our new house.

Come to think of it, maybe we WERE in Witness Protection. No wait, maybe we were trying to outrun debts? Yeah, that's more like it.

Anyway, now I'm living in my "I'm not leaving till they carry me out in a pine box" home, I saw this in the bookshelf and was beset with fresh guilt. I should NOT have this book in my keeping. This kind of relic belongs in a museum should be in the library where it belongs.

Also, I jumped on line and bought myself a replacement. Not the hardcover (it was $80!) but the paperback. Same exquisite illustrations, softer packaging, cheaper postage etc. $27. BARGAIN!

Which meant today I finally bit the bullet and posted the library book back where it belongs.

Along with this letter:

"Dear dedicated CHRLS librarians, It’s with a deep sense of naughtiness that I write this letter to accompany the return of a library book I borrowed some time in 1986 or 1987. I was in high school when I borrowed this marvelous hardback edition of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, illustrated by Michael Hague. My family’s trips to the Ballarat Library were a highlight of an otherwise pretty dull teenagerhood. Unfortunately, my parents moved house many times during my high school years - at one point we were living in Smythesdale on the weekends and then down in Corindhap, near Rokewood, during the week. This style of living could be politely termed “chaotic”. Every time we moved house, I’d find this book in my shelves and chastise myself: “I must take this book back, it’s so overdue.” But then I’d have a horrible thought at how enormous the late fees would be, and The Illustrated Hobbit would find its way into a box and carried to the next house, instead of returning home to the library where it belonged. Now I simply have no excuse and the book must go home. I’m a writer and I love libraries (and the Public Lending Right and Educational Lending Right that comes with having my books in so many libraries). Also, I really should set a good example to my son, now 10.
 So it’s time to say goodbye to this much-loved book, which I think is still in very good condition despite moving house with me more than a dozen times. And I hope the late fees have passed some kind of statute of limitations so we can all laugh about it. That’s why I’ve only given you a PO box instead of my home address, because the Sherriff’s office can’t visit me! (You pick these things up when you move house as much as we did.)  Yours affectionately,Ebony McKenna"

So folks, how long have you kept a library book? I want to know I'm not the worst offender, basically.


Kerry said...

Well done Ebony! In my library we haven't had one that late but I love it when our books turn up at the local book fair!

Ebony McKenna. said...

Thank you Kerry, I think!
Look, it was probably written off 25 years ago as "lost" and either replaced or not replaced, but even after all this time I felt this book deserved to go home.

I hope they go easy on me.

Ps, when you say local book fairs, do you mean people selling library books that should have been returned? That's naughty!

Kerry said...

Hi Ebony
Congratulations on your 'cover' awards. They are beautiful.

As for library books turning up at the local book fair, it isn't the person selling the book but donating to the book fair which in our case is for a local church parish. Usually the books are just put in a box to be donated without realising the are active library books. Like your book they are often already 'missing'!