Winnipeg woman returns overdue library book after 30 years: ‘I needed to do the walk of shame’

Jennifer Walton doesn’t always bring chocolates for the librarians when she returns books, but on her most recent trip to her local library, she felt obliged, and a little bit guilty.

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The Winnipegger was returning a copy of The Catcher in the Rye that she can’t quite remember taking out in the first place — but nearly 33 years ago according to the slip inside the book cover.

“I felt very badly that I had had their book for so many years,” Walton says of her decision to bring a treat for library staff.

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“I walked right in the front door and I said ‘I have an overdue book to return’ and she got ready to scan it and I said ‘No it’s actually much more overdue than that.’”

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There wasn’t a barcode to scan because the library appears to have still been using punch cards when Walton took out the J.D. Salinger classic. A stamped card still inside the book says it was supposed to be returned by Nov. 10, 1990.

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While Walton doesn’t specifically remember taking the book out, she says she does remember reading it for a high school assignment that year.

“It’s a great book,” she told 680 CJOB’s The News Thursday.

Walton says she found the book in a long-forgotten box while doing some “spring cleaning” with her husband a few weeks ago.

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She figures the box marked “Jen’s Books” made the move from her mother’s basement to her own basement, where it’s been sitting undisturbed for “a very, very long time.”

Walton says she knew she couldn’t just drop the book in the return chute and run.

“I needed to do the walk of shame,” she said.

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It was a decision made easier by the fact Winnipeg libraries no longer charge fines for overdue books.

Library spokesperson Barbara Bourrier-LaCroix said Walton would have been charged $11 for the overdue return, because that’s what fines capped out at before they were eliminated in 2021.

Bourrier-LaCroix says while it’s rare to see such an overdue book brought back, it does happen.

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She said a few years back they had a book returned that was 50 years overdue.

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“That time it was dropped in the return slot so we don’t know who brought it back – there was no walk of shame for that one,” Bourrier-LaCroix said.

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The now-returned copy of The Catcher in the Rye will likely end up back on library shelves, Bourrier-LaCroix said.

“It’s in really good shape,” she said.

“It has been protected in a box for thirty-some years.”

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