Between the book covers: an American librarian reveals forgotten treasures

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Family photos, a Public Enemy backstage pass, a weekend to-do list (“Saturday: File Taxes, Sunday: Relax, Watch a Game”), and unused 2002 beer coupons : It’s amazing what people leave in library books.

For years, an American librarian collected the wreckage she found between the pages of borrowed titles.

Today, Sharon McKellar opens her treasure trove to visitors to the library in Oakland, California, in a special exhibit titled Found in a library book.

“I wanted to share something that really interested me and that I think would be interesting for other people,” said McKellar, librarian in charge of teen services at the Oakland Public Library.

It “tells a story of our community and our city in a different and unexpected way and links back to the library.”

Among the bookmarks of children’s art and Christmas snapshots are letters written but never sent, notes from lovers and thank you postcards – “I got your check”, it is written on the back of an illustration of Alice in Wonderland.

Each one offers a snapshot – tantalizing or mundane – of the life of whoever left it there.

McKellar, supervising librarian at the Oakland Public Library, examines part of the “Found in a Library Book” exhibit. Photo: AFP

“There are some that are letters or cards or postcards that have been sent between people — or maybe not actually sent — that feel really personal,” McKellar added.

“There are notes and letters that seem very unfinished. Or I really want to know what happened next.”

‘Incredibly hot!!!’

McKellar began collecting apocrypha about 10 years ago and blogged about his hobby for several years, but the opportunity to host an exhibition arose when the library launched a new website.

This allowed her to group ephemera by theme or category – including notes, art, photos, cards and letters, artifacts, bookmarks, creative writing, lists and children’s items.

Some entries overlap and fit into two or more boxes, such as an interview a child did with her grandmother about how and why she immigrated from Vietnam decades earlier.

Others defy easy categorization – a copy of a 2008 recipe for pot roast has the warning “Behave” in the large blank space before the ingredient list begins.

Family photos, handwritten letters and drawings are just some of the ephemera to add to the exhibit.  Photo: AFP Family photos, handwritten letters and drawings are just some of the ephemera to add to the exhibit. Photo: AFP

Some letters are thoughtful, like one thanking its anonymous recipient for “everything you do,” but acknowledging “We tend to argue. I’m working to stop that.”

Others, including “Ruminations of an OG” are filled with regret: “27 years in this lunatic asylum / my fate long sealed / if you’re young, get out now / you can do better / Go back to school Learn a trade / The Post Office is no place to be somebody / It’s a high school with a paycheck.

“You won’t grow here / You will stagnate, lose your soul, mind and body / Listen to your heart / Listen to what it says!”

Glimpses of lives lived and preserved between the pages of a book are special to McKellar.

“There are… some that are really like someone’s inner thoughts, like, you know, (they) are trying to talk to each other through a really tough time or trying to give each other a pep talk,” he said. she declared.

McKellar opens his treasure trove to visitors to the Oakland, California library in a special exhibit titled McKellar opens his treasure trove to visitors to the Oakland, California library in a special exhibit titled “Found In A Library Book.” Photo: AFP

“There’s obviously no way of knowing who wrote them, which is probably best.”

Part of the display is the jury-rigged bookmarks that readers insert when they find themselves with no other way to mark their place.

Among them are a leaflet for a Beatles souvenir shop in London, concert tickets, a sticker from the Euro 2012 football championships, phone cards, a receipt for new windscreen wipers and the reader’s favorite medium. traveler – the plane boarding pass.

But the note McKellar particularly likes is one probably written by an infatuated teenager.

“OK, so I just want to say I find it AMAZING how no matter what Newt does, he looks SUPER CUTE or INCREDIBLY HOT!!!” -AFP

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