Man returns stolen library book 35 years later -- with author's autograph inside


A man who says he stole a book from a library 35 years ago has more than made up for it — by returning the restored book with the author's autograph inside.

The unnamed thief also sent a $200 donation to the Great Falls Public Library in Montana when he returned Richard Matheson's Bid Time Return by mail.

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Kathy Mora, the library's director, received a package containing the book, the check and a one-page apology letter in February.

"It was very surprising to me," she told, not least because the library never even knew the book was missing.

At the time it was stolen in 1982, their catalog wasn't computerized and because the man never checked it out, they didn't know it was gone, she said.

But it apparently went to a good home. In his letter, the man explained that he'd read the book at least 25 times and he'd had it restored over the years. He even met the author at one point and got him to sign it.

"This is not my book," he wrote in the letter. "It belongs back in the Great Falls Public Library — wrongfully taken, yes, but if you can, kindly take into consideration it has been loved and cared for all these years and know I am sorry for taking it."

"He was truly remorseful," Mora said.

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But the library was just happy to receive the package. She said that she would not be charging him the late fees, which at 10 cents a day, would be more than $1,200 by now.

Instead, she wrote back to the man — whom she would not identify — and expressed her gratitude.

"I thanked him for writing to us," she said. "I told him I didn't want him to spend any more time worrying about it."

The library now plans to display the book, along with the letter and the news coverage it's garnered. Since The Great Falls Tribune shared the story this week, Mora has received calls from news outlets across the country and has even been featured on an Australian radio show.

She thinks the story has resonated with readers because of the man's love for Bid Time Return.

"He truly did love this book," she said. "The love of reading... that's the takeaway."

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