Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has been pardoned by the Dartford Library in England, after he admitted in an interview that he never returned some books that he had borrowed from the library more than 50 years ago. In a Daily Mirror article that was published on May 24, 2013, a library official said that any fees would be waived if Richards made a personal visit to the library.
Dartford, Kent in England was the childhood hometown of Richards and Mick Jagger. They knew each other casually as children but didn’t become close friends until they were reacquainted as teenagers, when they met in 1961 at the Dartford train station and bonded over their mutual love of blues and rock music. It was this fateful meeting that many people consider to be the birth of the Rolling Stones. Not long after Jagger and Richards met guitarist Brian Jones, the Rolling Stones officially became a band in 1962. After a few lineup changes to the band’s rhythm section that year, drummer Charlie Watts and bass player Bill Wyman joined the Rolling Stones.
Richards told the Daily Mirror in May 2013 about the books he never returned to the Dartford Library: “I’ve still got overdue fines from about 50 years ago. They must be astronomical by now.”
However, it’s unlikely that Richards has the books. They were most likely left behind when he moved out of his childhood home. Richards also lost many of his possessions when his Redlands mansion in England partially burned down in 1973.
In addition, the library no longer has records from the 1960s, so it would not be able to know which books Richards did not return, nor would the library be able to calculate any fines that Richards might owe. The Daily Mirror estimated that Richards would have been fined £3,000 (which is about $4,500 in U.S. dollars) for the overdue books.
Kent’s head of Libraries, Registration and Archives Cath Anley told the Daily Mirror: “We are really delighted that Keith Richards has said how useful the library was for him in his youth. If he would like to come and visit and help us spread the word about what a great service this is, he would more than compensate us for the books he didn’t return. Unfortunately, any of our books missing since the 1960s will have been removed from our records many years ago.
“Libraries are very different places to the way they were then, and all loans are now recorded and tracked on our computer system. This enables us to keep a closer check on all our books and we also now have a range of ways to encourage our customers to return their books, and pay their fines if necessary. One of the new developments is the offer of pre-overdue email alerts to customers. We know many of them lead busy lives and we want to help them make sure they return or renew their books before they start to incur fines.”
Richards has been very open about his love of books and libraries. He has said in interviews that if he hadn’t been a musician, he might have become a librarian.
In 1998, Richards damaged his ribs and chest when he fell off a ladder while trying to get a book in the library of his Connecticut mansion.
In 2010, Richards did a Q&A for his memoir “Life” at the New York Public Library’s Fifth Avenue main branch in New York City.
Richards shared fond memories of the Dartford Library to the Daily Mirror: “To me, it was a place where you get a hint there was somewhere called civilization. It was the only place where I would willingly obey the laws, like silence. It was somewhere I could find out about things I was interested in.”
According to the Daily Mail, Richards is an “avid bookworm who has taken great pride in developing libraries inside his homes in Sussex and Connecticut,” and he “still takes pride in displaying his favorite books by the bedside for guests who visit Redlands, his Elizabethan farmhouse in West Sussex and his property in Weston, Connecticut.”