Overdue Library Book Returned, After 78 Years, During Chicago Library's Amnesty Period

The Chicago Public Library was reunited last week with a book so many years overdue no one even realized it was missing from its shelves.

In the midst of a rare, three-week amnesty program -- where the nation's third-largest city's library system is forgiving fines for any overdue items that are returned to them -- the library received a limited edition copy of Oscar Wilde's classic "The Picture of Dorian Gray," Reuters reports.

The literary treasure was last checked out in 1934.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Harlean Hoffman Vision had put off returning the book due to the hefty fines -- or even jail time -- she feared she could face.

Vision told the Tribune that her mother, Sylvia Hoffman, had somehow obtained the book from a childhood friend. Vision had discovered the book, one of only 480 special-edition copies printed by London's Edinburgh Society, in her mother's attic after her death in 1993.

Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon told CBS Chicago that Vision brought in the book because of the amnesty program. They were happy to get both the book -- as well as Vision herself -- back.

"This is as much about getting patrons back as it is about getting materials back," Bannon told the station of the program.

How much would Vision have owed without the amnesty (as well as the libary's $10 cap on overdue fines for books)? $6,000, according to Reuters.

Chicagoans with similarly overdue items from the library ought to act fast in order to avoid fines: The library's program, launched last month, ends Friday.

Earlier this year, an 80-years-overdue book was returned to a library in the Republic of Ireland. The book had chalked up more than $5,000 in late fees, which the library opted to waive.

Best Fall 2012 Books