As we celebrate South African Library Week (19–25 March), I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on some interesting facts about libraries around the world.
To start, you’re probably wondering what the answer is to my question. Here it is, along with other interesting facts about libraries here and abroad.
The most stolen library book in the world is the Bible, closely followed by The Guinness Book of World Records.
The South African Public Library in Cape Town, now known as the National Library of South Africa (Cape Town) was the first library in South Africa, established in 1818 by Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of the Cape Colony at the time.
The oldest library still in operation in the world is St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai, Egypt. It was built in the middle of the 6th century.
The largest library is the Library of Congress in Washington DC, with more than 160 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. The smallest is a bright yellow plastic structure outside 32 Prince Street, New York City. It houses 40 books and has space for just one reader at a time.
According to Guinness World Records, the highest library is the library on the 60th floor of the JW Marriott Hotel at Tomorrow Square in Shanghai, China. It’s situated on the 60th floor, which is over 757 feet above street level.
And finally, the largest overdue fine for a library book was $345.14 (around R4,000). The book in question was a poetry book called Days and Deeds checked out of Kewanee Public Library, Illinois, USA in April 1955 by Emily Canellos-Simms. The book was 47 years overdue.
The good news for you though, is that if you take your overdue book back to your local library during South African Library Week, you’ll pay nothing, whether it’s one day or 47 years overdue!
For more information about libraries in your locale or about SA Library Week, visit the Library and Information Association of South Africa.
Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor
I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content. I am an internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience, specialising in education, lifestyle and literacy.
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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