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  • Writer's pictureMary Brunski, RICP©️BFA™️

Found in a Library Book

There are many love notes in the "Found in a Library Book" collection. OAKLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY
There are many love notes in the "Found in a Library Book" collection. OAKLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY

Have you ever opened a library book or a book you picked up at a used bookstore or garage sale or those neighborhood book-sharing cubbies popping up all over and found something a previous reader left inside?

Sharon McKellar, a librarian at the Oakland Public Library, has been collecting forgotten mementos left in library books for some time. Over the years she has collected family photos, notes, coupons, recipes, and concert tickets. No monetary treasures like a winning lottery ticket or a hundred-dollar bill have turned up yet. But the treasures she finds have finally found their place.

What started out as her personal collection, McKellar has curated the "Found in a Library Book" project – an online database of all the things found in books at the Oakland library. Soon, other library staff and volunteers started collecting and saving such artifacts. McKellar told the local CBS News station, "As soon as I realized it wasn't just me who had saved these things and enjoyed these things, it was an easy decision to keep it going."

By August of 2021, McKellar had uploaded 370 artifacts to the online collection but admitted she has probably a couple hundred more. "There are definitely some favorites – anything that's created by a kid I think I love," she said. In one case, a child left a scribbled picture of the librarian with devil horns! In another, it was a note from a parent: “Sweet dreams my love bug. Have a good night and sleep well."

Some are book reviews left behind for the next reader: "I loved this book. It stole my heart and made me cry. When you find tear stains, you will know they are mine. Enjoy."

Other artifacts have been less poignant and more generic – a boarding pass, old playing cards, a gum wrapper, or coupons torn from a magazine.

McKellar said that while the origins of the forgotten artifacts are not really traceable, some original owners have recognized items on the online database. "One person recognized something they had written, although they themselves had not actually been to the Oakland Public Library, they lived in a city nearby. So, they're not sure how it landed here, but it was a note they had written for somebody else," she said.

The project is fairly new, but McKellar hopes it inspires people to dive into books at their local library, “…because you never know what you'll find – maybe an old baby photo, a ticket to a 2004 Oakland A's game, or a map of Japan – all of which were found in a library book,” she said.

Next time you open an old book, here’s hoping you find treasure!

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