Alison Healey on Late Library Books – The Irish Times

The recent death of veteran actor Philip Baker Hall was a reminder to revisit the old Seinfeld episode where he played an investigative officer at the library. The aptly named Mr. Buckman was in connection with the case of library delinquent Jerry Seinfeld who failed to return a book he had borrowed 25 years earlier.

Although Philip Baker Hall’s appearance on the show was brief, his book detective was so influential that every obituary points to his stellar role.

He was the hero of librarians everywhere, fighting the good fight against the people who entered the New York Public Library without shoes, and painted the genitals in the Cat in the Hat books. But his main business was hunting down bad guys who didn’t return the library books and making them pay heavy fines.

Poor Mr. Buckman would have been fiddling with his thumb if he was still working today after so many bookshops had finished fines. They were removed in Ireland in January 2019, and that was also for the person who returned a book to the Gweedore Library in May of that year.

The White Owl Examined, by Annie M. It is now tucked away safely in the Letterkenny Library, and will be shown to the public on Culture Night in September. It might also be a nice reminder that it’s never too late to do the right thing.

This book was only a little late when you consider the unconventional book-borrowing habits of our closest neighbours. The Guinness Book of Records claims that the overdue library book record was set by Colonel Robert Walpole who borrowed a book from Sidney Sussex College at the University of Cambridge around 1667. It did not return for 288 years.

I’m sure you’re wondering what book could be so exciting that it has been inseparable for nearly three centuries? It was, of course, Scriptores rerum Germanicarum septentrionalium, vicinorumque populorum varii (many North German historians and neighboring peoples). I doubt there is a line of people eagerly waiting to read that cauldron.

His son, Robert also went on to become Britain’s first prime minister and there is no evidence that he inherited his father’s delinquency when it came to borrowing books. Nor did Colonel Walpole’s biographer Dr. J. e. Plumb. He had to do the decent thing and return the book to Cambridge after finding it in the Colonel’s papers while researching the autobiography.

I don’t know if the book helped Colonel Walpole in his endeavours, but it is possible that another past due book helped his borrower. The microscope and its finds, a 700-page door sill, were borrowed from the library of Hereford Cathedral School by teenager Arthur Edwin Boycott in 1894. His 77-year-old granddaughter returned it with an apology 122 years later.

After reading this book on microscopes, Arthur Boycott grew up to be an outstanding professor of pathology and a naturalist. And unlike the unpopular Captain Boycott, the Professor gave his name to a more positive phenomenon. The boycott effect describes the effect responsible for the way bubbles sink into a pint of Guinness. This came after a discovery he made while observing the deposition of red blood cells.

With all those important scientific matters on his mind, he could be forgiven for forgetting to rewrite it. But book-borrowers who use unconventional bookmarks are hard to forgive.

If a sane person does not have a bookmark to locate him in a book, he may use a slip of paper, and possibly a receipt. Not in the US, where many librarians have complained about customers using slices of processed cheese as bookmarks. What were they reading? A hair set from WBrie Yeats? Waiting for quality?

This controversial controversy emerged a few years ago after American writer Anna Holmes appealed to people on Twitter to stop the practice. She said a Washington, D.C. library branch encountered three checkmarks of cheese. Other librarians weighed the odd items they found as bookmarks. There was a small circular saw blade, nibbled chicken legs and several banana peels. But most of all, there were an alarmingly high number of slices of bacon used as bookmarks, cooked and uncooked.

Fortunately for Irish librarians, food bookmarks seem to be an American phenomenon. Irish readers prefer to leave memory cards and bus tickets in their books.

Perhaps the most shocking thing you can find in an Irish bookstore these days is your recent electric bill. Ten times scarier than discovering the Easi Single.