[Fox News] Popular children’s book is returned to Missouri library after 30 years: ‘Never too late’

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A library in Missouri is celebrating the return of its oldest-ever overdue book — and thanks to its no-fine policy, the person who checked it out and who has now returned it does not owe a cent.

“It’s never too late to come back to the library, especially now that we are fine-free,” the St. Charles City-County Library in St. Peters, Missouri, shared in a Nov. 8 Facebook post.

“A customer returned this Sandra Boynton book to our WingHaven Branch today,” the post read — noting that the book was checked out back in 1993. 

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And while library staff appeared to be glad the book had been returned, they were “even [happier] to welcome the customer back to the library,” according to the post.

The book, “But Not the Hippopotamus,” by Sandra Boynton, was published in 1982.

It’s recommended for children ages 1-3 years old, according to an Amazon listing.

Boynton has “written and illustrated over 75 children’s books and seven general audience books,” according to her biography on book publisher Simon & Schuster’s website.

Five of Boynton’s books have been New York Times bestsellers. She’s sold 85 million books.

Facebook users reacted to the announcement of the book’s return, with some people tagging Boynton’s account.

“And the kid [that] this was read to is all grown up now,” said one Facebook user. 

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“Must be a tough read. Congrats on finishing it!” another user joked.

Another person was sympathetic to the person who returned the long-overdue book, saying, “Kids’ books like that always get lost in the weirdest places.” 

A representative from the St. Charles City-County Library told Fox News Digital that the Boynton book is the oldest in “recent memory” that’s been returned to the library district.

In addition to books, the St. Charles City-County Library also lends out DVDs, CDs, eResources, magazines and a “library of things,” such as cake pans and WiFi hotspots, the representative said.

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The library system has not charged fines since September 2020, a move that also cleared any existing fines on customer accounts.

Library customers will, however, be responsible for replacing the cost of an item if it is not returned after 28 days.

The decision to eliminate fines was made after research showed that the threat of fines was deterring people from using the library, the St. Charles City-County Library wrote in a news release in 2020, when it announced it would be going fine-free.

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“While researching the idea of offering a fine-free library to the community, we discovered that although fines do not represent a significant portion of the library’s overall budget, they do act as a significant deterrent for those most in need of a library,” Jason Kuhl, CEO of the library, said in the release.

Library fines, he said, disproportionately affect children, older adults, disabled and homebound customers, and lower-income households.” 

“The library is committed to serving all customers, whatever their age or economic status,” said Kuhl.

Other library systems that have eliminated fines have seen an increase in the number of new library cards issued as well as an increase in the number of checked out items, said Kuhl. 

What these systems have not seen, he said, was an increase in the number of lost or missing items. 

“We anticipate that we will have fewer lost items because customers who were afraid to return a late item will now be able to do so without financial consequences,” he added.

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