Long-awaited books, some excerpts from the 1930s, returned to the Somerville Public Library


As it turns out, the books were once in the possession of her late aunt, Helen Godimis, who grew up in Somerville. As a teenager in the 1930s, she lived at 18 Cottage Ave. and was a patron of the west branch of the Somerville Public Library on College Avenue.

But her life was cut short after she fell seriously ill with the flu. When she died at the age of 16 in 1937, she left behind several books from the public library and her school library. They ended up in a wooden box that was stored in the attic of his family’s home in Somerville, and they stayed there for years until the property was sold in 2010, and Alvarez moved the box. in the basement of his house, with other stuff from the house.

It wasn’t until June of this year that Alvarez took a closer look and realized that the box contained library books.

Alvarez called the library and informed the staff of his discovery.

“I said, ‘I have overdue books, am I talking to the right people?’ ” he said.

When asked how long the books had been out, Alvarez said, “These are a bit old. They were to come back in 1937. “

Alison Mitchell, Librarian and Acting Branch Manager at the West Branch Library, was intrigued.

“We were just really curious: what are these books he found? ” she said. “We said of course, bring them on. “

Helen Godimis grew up in Somerville and was a patron of the library in the 1920s and 1930s.Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

So, as promised, Alvarez dropped off the books in the library. They were 39 in all; some were from Somerville schools, others from the library, and others apparently belonged to her aunt’s personal collection. The older editions had copyrights dating back to the 19th century.

“Some of the books are really interesting from a historical perspective,” Mitchell said.

The 10 books from the Somerville Public Library were educational in nature and included “Carpenter’s New Geographical Reader: Asia”, which was published by the American Book Co. in 1923, and “Language Lessons from Literature, Book One”, which was published by Houghton Mifflin & Co. in 1903.

This is one of the old books that were returned to the west branch of the Somerville Public Library.
This is one of the old books that were returned to the west branch of the Somerville Public Library.Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

The box of books also contained two titles on human sexuality. One was an 1897 edition of “What a young man should know”, From the“ Sex and Self Series ”by Sylvanus Stall, and the other was a 1928 edition of“Birth control or limitation of offspringBy Dr William J. Robinson.

These weren’t from the library, she noted.

Mitchell said the timing of Alvarez’s discovery was quite fortuitous, as the West Branch Library, which was built in 1909, has been closed for renovations since 2018. It will reopen on July 12.

“These have really been hidden for years,” Mitchell said. “The West Branch Library has just completed a multi-year renovation. So that these hundred-year-old books come back to construction, just at the time of reopening. . . the timing is pretty amazing.

And when it comes to late fees, Alvarez doesn’t have to worry. Mitchell said that from July 1, the Somerville Public Library no longer imposed fines on people who borrow materials and kept them for too long.

Previously, the library charged 5 cents per day, up to a maximum of $ 10. Once a customer hit the $ 10 limit, they were no longer allowed to verify anything else, she said. (Hypothetically speaking, if Alvarez were to pay a dime for each day that the books in his aunt’s library had been overdue since 1937, that would be around 84 years of fine, which would be over $ 1,500 per book.)

Some of the books Alvarez returned are now on display in the West Branch, along with a text explaining how they were found and returned to the library, decades after they were taken down.

“After all these years, they found their way home! says the text.

Some of the books are now on display in the West Branch of the Somerville Public Library.
Some of the books are now on display in the West Branch of the Somerville Public Library.Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

Emily Sweeney can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.



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