People are always asking Congress to set aside a day or a week to commemorate something or other and now maybe it's time to declare a "Return the Borrowed Book Week," a sort of amnesty to restore friendships.
I have books on my shelves belonging to friends that I had planned on returning on George Washington's Birthday but we all know it snowed.
Most people who have loaned out books know who have them.
"The Harder They Fall," a novel by Budd Schulberg left my bookcase in Manhattan in the early '50s along with a New Yorker album of cartoons. Both should now be on a shelf in a home in Westport, Conn.
"Down and Out in London and Paris," by Orwell, took off from my house under the arm of a student bound for William and Mary about ten years ago, never to come back.
Not having her books returned bothered detective novelist Carolyn Wells so much she put it to verse: "They borrow books they will not buy, They have no ethics or religions; I wish some kind Burbankian guy Could cross my books with homeing pigeons ."
A father once scolded his son for not returning a library book and pointed out Abe Lincoln as an example.
"When Lincoln was your age," said the father, "he would walk many miles to return a book."
"Yeah," the son answered, "and when he was your age he was president."
There is also a pleasure in lending a book you have enjoyed, urging a friend to read it so that at a later date it could be discussed, and I am GUILTY OF FORCING BOOKS ONTO PEOPLE, THEN SITTING BACK TO SMOLDER WHEN IT ISN'T RETURNED.
It would have been easy to lend a book to Ben Franklin. He wrote: "Often I sat up in my room reading the greatest part of the night, when the book was borrowed in the evening to be returned early in the morning, lest it should be missed or wanted."
Allen Stypec owns "The Second Story Books," and deals in second-hand books.
Stypec, a graduate of American University in economics, has always been a book collector and once had 75,000 books of his own in his garage.
"I only borrowed one book in my lefe, from a professor in school," Stypec said, "it was a paperback that cost about 75 cents.
"He had a pained expression on his face knowing I wouldn't return it, so I didn't."
Stypec figures that in his three stores he has about three-quarters-or-a-million used books, none of them from public libraries.
"If we buy used books in bulk we catalogue them and if a library book shows up we try to get it back to where it belongs," he said.
The reading havits of his ustomers amuse Stypec. "Some people come in every day and stand for an hour reading a book until they finish it. It doesn't bother us.
"We had a stall at a flea market and an old man came to it every day, took a book from the shelf and read.
On the fifth day he brought his own folding chair."
A quote from Herman Melville could apply to Stypec's enterprise: "If I were asked what book is better than a cheap book I should answer that there is one book better than a cheap book -- that is a book honestly come by."
"Books vanish from the store," Stypec said. "The IRS only allows us 2 percent for thefts."
When a course is given at some high school near one of his stores he knows exactly what it is by the "walking off" with books on that subject.
"People are friends and books are friends," Stypec said. "We should keep them forever."
Larry Molumby, assistant director of the D.C. Public Library wants to encourage people to use the library but also to return the books when they finish reading.
"We have 291,275 registered borrowers, right now we have no accurate ideas of how many books are missing and have not been returned," Molumby said.
The library people have taken a light approach trying to get the books back.
Cartoons are on display showing people looking under beds, along with mesages saying. "Any books under your bed? Bring them back to the D.C. Library so that others may read them."
To keep the public informed and up-to-date on the latest reading Molumby said: "We buy about 50 copies of a typical best seller and titles like 'Roots' could go as high as 300."
A new system now working at the Martin Luther King branch will soon be installed in every branch. It is the Automated Circulation Control.
It will tell where a book is, how often it is borrowed, and if a book is not returned on time it will print an overdue notice.
Molumby said: "We once fined people up to the true value of a book not returned, and would accept a duplicate book for one that is lost.
"The maximum fine is now $2, and once in awhile we run an amnesty week, a fine-free week when books can be returned with no questions asked."
And we who stand in our homes near unreturned books of friends, unable to install the scanners to find our own books "on loan" might, with an effort, turn around the words of Arthur Guiterman, who wrote in despair:
"Much have I sorrowed, Learning to my cost That a book that's borrowed Is a book that's lost."