AS library fines go, £3,552 is a bit steep.

But thankfully Charlie Studdy - who this week found a library book his late mother took out 76 years ago and never returned - has been spared the overdue charge.

As reported in the T&A, the book, called This Way To The Tomb, was borrowed from Keighley Library on July 17, 1946.

Mr Studdy was sorting through his bookshelves when he found it and thought it must have come from his mother’s house after her death nine years ago. As it was “out of character” for her not to return a library book, he thinks it was because she was at university in 1946 and must have forgotten she’d taken the book out during a visit home.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The library book Eileen Hoyle borrowed in 1946The library book Eileen Hoyle borrowed in 1946

The book had been on the library’s shelves for less than a month and had only gone out once before Eileen Hoyle borrowed it. Now it has been returned it to Keighley Library, where a member of staff worked out that, if charged the current rate of 15p per day, the overdue fine would be a total of £3,552.45. The library has, no doubt to Mr Studdy’s relief, waived the fine.

It was 150 years ago this month that Bradford Libraries Service began - and the intriguingly titled This Way To The Tomb has been on loan for over half of that time.

It’s a lovely reminder of the enduring role of libraries, which have been ‘people places’ in our communities for generations. When Bradford’s first public library opened in June 1872, after the city became the fifth place in the UK to adopt the Free Libraries Act, it meant that for the first time people of all classes and ages had free access to information and education.

The library service has evolved with technology and today you can use them to access e-books, practice driving theory tests, using a library card, listen to music online and trace your family tree at a click. Online library services are available 24 hours. But for me the library remains a place of quiet, a safe space, a place to learn and lose yourself - best of all a place filled with books.

I have used libraries for as long as I can remember. Whenever I drive past Eccleshill Library, I think of going there with my mum after school and having the glorious freedom to choose four books. My mum would disappear to do her own book browsing, leaving us in the children’s section.

I loved that library. It wasn’t one of the lovely old Carnegie Libraries; built in the 1960s, it’s not much to look at, but it opened up a world of stories and colour and endless books that I still remember vividly. It was a place where I was left to roam and pore over books, finally deciding on a selection and taking them to the desk to be stamped. I loved, and still recall, the sensory pleasure of it all, even the due date appearing in ink on the inside page.

This was a purpose-built library, designed to serve the surrounding housing estates, and I’m glad it’s still there.

I went on to use libraries for exam revision - I once had a romantic teenage date in the old Bradford Central Library - and at university I spent a lot of time in the libraries, which had coffee shops and sandwich bars and were places to hang out and socialise as well as study.

I still have a library card and I still love the idea, which is both simple and profound, that you can take home books for free. But to my shame, I don’t use libraries as much as I should. Library cuts sadden and infuriate me, and I fear for the future of these gems in our communities. We must make more use of them, before they disappear forever.

Because even in the modern world, libraries have a vital place. Not just for borrowing books, but for accessing a whole range of information, from community events to specialist documents, and technology, for free. Libraries are shared spaces. You can watch live performances in them (I saw a comedy show at Cleckheaton Library and was in awe at how beautiful the place is), or attend workshops or talks. Or you can just enjoy the silence.