Library book returns to UW home, seven decades overdue

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It’s a story of well-aged philosophy, begun in a UW-Madison library prior to World War II and concluded in the same library last week.

On Jan. 13, 1938, a student checked out a hardcover book, “Selected Papers on Philosophy” by William James. In all caps at the top of the return slip were the loan terms — FOURTEEN DAYS — and the daily overdue fine — TWO CENTS. Previous date stamps showed it had been checked out regularly starting in 1926, and returned. For this patron, the book took a bit longer on its journey back to the shelves, arriving last week by mail with a letter to Ed Van Gemert, vice provost for libraries:

“My parents met as students at the University of Wisconsin in 1937 and have been married for nearly 73 years. Recently, I have been sorting through the myriad boxes in their basement. I found the enclosed volume, which seems to be overdue at the University Library. I am not sure which of my parents is the scofflaw, but it seems appropriate to return it. I hope that the absence of this work has not had adverse consequences for the intellectual life of the University.”

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