Pardon Them, Librarian, For They Have Sinned

Wednesday, for the first time in more than 25 years, they came to the Anchorage AK Public Library, where amnesty was granted to people with unreturned books. All day, a steady trickle of people arrived to unburden themselves; the sheepish, the guilty and the shamed, into the sun-dappled lobby of the Z.J. Loussac Public Library to make their confessions.

"Once upon a time, in the year of Our Lord 1996, I believe, my wife's sister checked these out," Kirk Dungan told me. He slid a copy of "Traditional Buildings of Britain," "At Home in Scotland," and a curious tome with medieval-looking illustrations titled "Love and Marriage," across the counter Wednesday morning.

You could almost smell the satisfaction. His wife's sister used his wife's card, he said.

The books were from a time when his wife's sister was thinking of moving to Scotland. She wound up in Long Island. And all these years, the books nagged his wife. What if she applied for a job and there was some kind of electronic search and the books popped up? What then? What did it say about a person to have unreturned books in their past? The debt, money-wise, might be small, but karma-wise, it wasn't pretty.

"I'm just happy to be doing it," he said.

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Overdues

It's always truly amazing when people return overdue books with the most ridiculous of excuses. Yet it is always filled with shame. Why is it shameful to return an overdue book? Why are you feeling guilty? What brings on this onset of guilt? Are libraries and librarians so awful that this will be placed on some non-existent permanent record?

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