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Man makes surprising return to Grand Rapids Public Library: 'It's a little late'

Guess how much the late fees added up to.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Public Library is full of stories. But the main character of a real page-turner is Tommy Russo, a Newaygo resident and library patron. 

Russo, though, hasn’t been to the branch on 111 Library Street in a while.

“I believe I was 18," said Tommy.

Two weeks ago, he brought something they may be looking for.

“And it’s a little late," he laughed.

Tommy was helping his father pack up his house when he made a discovery. 

“We were moving a bookshelf, and I just happened to look down on the ground," he explained. 

Right by his feet, a copy of an old favorite, "The English Language" by Alex English. 

“It’s a book about Alex English, coming from a struggle, hardships and making the NBA," he said. 

The due date?

“You can actually see February 6th, 1991," said Katie Zychowski, Grand Rapids Public Library communications manager, pointing to the stamp on the inside cover.

“That was a while ago," laughed Tommy.

His first reaction was nostalgia.

"It’s a good book, good story," he said. "I'm a fan of his."

His next emotion? Fear.

"As soon as I seen it, I remembered it, but I haven’t thought about it for over 30 years," he said. "I was very worried about 32 years of late fees."

Like Alex English, though, he took a shot. 

“I just walked up and said I need to return a book," he said. 

Their reaction wasn't quite what he expected. 

“Tommy did the right thing," said Katie, "there's no need to feel any judgement or shame."

The price for checking out a book for three decades? Less than $8. 

“If an item is deemed lost, never to be returned again, you would essentially pay the price, the value of the material. This is a $7.95 book, so it wouldn’t be more than $7.95," she explained. 

So, why risk the late fees to return the book?

“I just thought somebody else could read it," explained Tommy.

Katie calls his actions those of a "good Samaritan." She was just happy the library staff got to reintroduce Tommy to their more modern functions. 

“It’s a delight, honestly," smiled Katie.

Thirty two years later, the hero of this story is finally onto the next chapter.

“Now I gotta find something else positive to do," said Tommy.


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