Overdue book returned to San Francisco Library, 100 years later

Sunday, January 15, 2017
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The San Francisco Public Library just had a book turned in that was 100 years overdue.

SAN FRANCISCO (WPVI) -- At the beginning of every year, the San Francisco Public Library offers a "forgiveness" program that allows people to return overdue books without paying the fine.

This year, at San Francisco's oldest library branch, they got a book that was 100 years overdue.

"In a neighborhood as old as this, you might get a book back five years late, 10 years late, when someone moves or they're cleaning out a house," said Darice McKay, a librarian at the branch.

The title of the book is "Forty Minutes Late". As for the due date, "It's been overdue for just about 100 years, just about," said McKay.

The collection of short stories was published in 1909, the same year that the library was built.

The book was quite popular in its day - "1,029 so you can see this was a very popular book," said McKay.

That is until Phoebe Marsh Dickenson Webb got her hands on it. "Phoebe is my great-grandmother, and she's the person who checked the book out," said Judy Wells, who ended up turning the book in.

Turns out Phoebe was 83 when she checked the book out, and in fairness she meant to turn it in, but only problem is she died before she got the chance.

"It's hard to come back as a ghost and return your late library book," said Wells.

The book spent the next 80 years in a trunk full of her things, until her great-grandchildren found it while searching for pieces of family history.

"I really enjoyed reading it, it's one of the reason I held on to it," said Webb Johnson, Phoebe's great-grandson.

Now, they're bringing it back to the library in hopes that others will get to have that same enjoyment.

"This is something I know people will want to read," said Luis Herrera a San Francisco Librarian.

Now, the library has to figure out what to do with the book. They could put it back in circulation, or they could put it on display at their history center. Either way, there's more time for historic books to come back, the fine amnesty program goes all the way through Valentine's Day.