Overdue book headed back to California library after 70 years

An overdue book is on its way back to a California after being found by a man whose mother failed to return it by the June 2, 1950, due date.

Tim Steele said his mother, Gail Steele, checked out the copy of Dancing Star by Gladys Malvern during a trip to the Sonoma County Library when she was only 13 years old.

Gail Steele, a former Hayward city councilwoman and an 18-year member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, died in June 2020 at the age of 83. Tim Steele said he came across the overdue library book while he and his siblings were cleaning out her home in Hayward.

Steele said he called the Sonoma County Library to see how he should go about returning the tome.

“I thought, ‘Let’s just call and leave a message,'” he told the Press-Democrat newspaper. “So I left a message of, ‘Um, I have a book, I’ll pay the fine if I need to, but it was due 70 years ago.'”

Library officials said the facility did away with fines in 2019, and fees were previously capped at $25, but if Steele had been charged the old rate of 15 cents per day, the book would have accumulated more than $3,888 in late fees.

Officials told Steele they don’t need any money for the late book, they are just happy to know it’s on its way home.

“It’s just a feel good story that she had it for so long and it was something that was important to her,” Library Director Ann Hammond said. “But it is sweet to have it back.”

Tim Steele said he is now planning to drive to Sonoma next week to return the book in person.