The LAPL Misses You campaign set out to unbreak the hearts of book-loving Angelenos with suspended library cards by offering them amnesty. From Feb. 1 through Valentine’s Day, anyone who returned (undamaged) overdue books, CDs, DVDs and other materials had their late fines waived.
The campaign was kind of a success: 64,633 books are now back in the system and reunited with their shelves at last.
Not knowing what they'd receive, the first surprise came a few days into the amnesty, when a package arrived from Miami containing a book that was 33 years overdue.
It had no return address, just an apology note from a “Peter K.,” who apparently borrowed it from his former local branch in Sherman Oaks and recently found it in a closet.
But then there was a bigger shock — and it came from December 1950. That was the due date on the book Story of Scotch by Enos Mills, a thin 1916 tome, which isn’t a narrative about the golden malt but rather Mills' tale of his adventures hiking in the Rockies with his collie.
It was returned in person by Dennis Levin, now in his 70s, but who had been 8 years old when it was borrowed — maybe even by him — for his reading pleasure.
“I first found it on the shelf at my parents' home a couple of decades ago,’’ he explained, adding that it had been given up as “lost” once it was a year overdue, and he even had the yellowing, pencil-written $1.25 receipt to prove it.
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He had eventually tried to return to the Wilshire branch, but when he visited it was closed for renovation. Then he heard about the LAPL Misses You amnesty on the radio, and a startled librarian took photos to record the moment when he brought the book in.
Levine’s book had library fines and other details listed in front, and even at the then-rate of 2 cents per day, he managed to avert a fine of $500 for being so tardy; had he been charged at today’s rate of 35 cents per day, it would be closer to $8,500.
The point of the amnesty was not to assess theoretical fines, of course; it was to get the missing, overdue and presumed lost items back where they belong — and get them ready to be loaned out again after any necessary repairs.
There was a great side effect, too. Nearly 7,300 people signed up for a new card, while many of the librarians said the greatest result was that nearly 14,000 people who had returned items now had their cards freed up to be used again — and, hopefully, again and again.