The Oakland Library is releasing notes found in books online for grateful fans | Pro Club Bd


If you’ve ever accidentally left a note or to-do list — or worse, a love letter — in a library book and thought your personal item had been discarded by the librarian, you could be wrong.

Especially if you live in Oakland, California.

In her 20 years as a librarian, Sharon McKellar has unearthed all sorts of abandoned personal items – from doodles to recipes to old photographs – nestled between the pages of returned library books. She carefully removes them and reads them, then scans them and uploads them to the library’s website after cleaning all personal information.

It’s become a hobby, and she has quite a number of people who are equally enchanted by the forgotten finds.

“Part of the magic is that they just show up,” McKellar said. “Sometimes they’re in a book a long time before we notice them there.”

McKellar — a librarian at the Oakland Public Library — marvels at any memorabilia, no matter how mundane. She records them all.

“Things that seem the most mundane can be the most interesting,” she said. “I love the little glimpse into someone’s life in this moment.”

McKellar has been doing this for many years, but in 2013 she decided to go public with her pastime. She began uploading each scanned item to the library’s website – which was revamped about a year ago – on a page she created called “Found in a library book.”

The top of the page reads, “Have you ever wondered what happens to the things you leave behind? Well, if you leave them in an OPL library book or in the library, you might find them right here on our site. See some of our found treasures below.”

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The improvised project took off. Library staff — which has 18 locations across the city — began sending McKellar submissions with items of interest they had discovered in books and in the library.

“I think it’s in the nature of people who are inclined to work in libraries that they tend to enjoy ephemera and collecting things,” said McKellar, 46, adding that she’s always eager to return important items to their owners and to remove all private information – such as names and addresses – from their digital posts.

She divides the articles into different categories: notes, art, photos, cards and letters, artifacts, facts, bookmarks, creative writing, lists, written in a book, and children’s articles. She then gives each piece an appropriate title.

When considering which items to feature on the site, “I don’t discriminate,” McKellar said. “The idea is to post everything because what’s a nugget to me might not be a nugget to someone else.”

For McKellar, children’s drawings are the treasures that tickle them the most – especially those that, despite the simplicity of the artworks, paint a clear picture of what might be going on in their lives.

She also loves looking at people’s lists: to-do lists, shopping lists, brainstorming lists, bucket lists. All lists.

“I’m a person who makes lists of everything and then leaves them behind,” McKellar said, explaining that there’s an element of belonging that intrigues her about a stranger’s personal notes. “It kind of feels connected.”

A worker stopped to help search for a missing girl. He found her waist deep in a creek.

“Learn to cook” is the title of a list that turned up by accident and is written in clearly curly cursive handwriting. Several dishes are listed: Almond Butter Cake, Banana Muffins, Deviled Eggs, and Baking Powder Cookies.

Another list, messily scribbled on a yellow post-it note, is mostly crossed out. However, some tasks are still pending, including: “Buy Hay” and “Vit AE Moisturizer”.

To anyone other than the writer, these notes may seem meaningless, McKellar said, but to them they are an opportunity for creativity.

“I love it as a storytelling device,” said McKellar, who hopes to host a personal exhibition at the library soon to showcase some very special pieces. “You can look at an object, whether it’s a photograph or a scrap of paper, and you can imagine all the possible people that could have brought that into our space, and why and how it got here, and what their stories are. ”

“You could really dream up all sorts of scenarios in your imagination, and you’ll probably never guess the actual scenario,” she continued. “But that’s kind of the fun.”

Other library staff have also been involved in the project for a long time. They scour returned books for items of interest and share their finds with McKellar – curator of the extensive collection.

Remy Timbrook, librarian in the children’s department, finds “lots of little drawings” in returned books. They always brighten her day, she said.

“I love little illustrations of things,” said Timbrook, 38, who has worked at the library since 2015. “Sometimes there are notes or their recommendations for a book or an answer to what happens in the book.”

Her favorite find, she said, was a leaf — buried in a children’s non-fiction book about leaves. Of course she found it last fall.

“I turned the page and thought it was an illustration,” Timbrook said. “Then it fell out of the book.”

Christy Thomas, who has worked at the library for 18 years, is also enthusiastic about the project.

“I’ve seen so many beautiful things,” said Thomas, 48. “It’s like finding treasure and it’s so beautiful that we have this process of actually doing something with them and sharing them.” “

Especially given the world’s current troubles, “it’s wonderful to get a boost from the little joys we can find,” she said.

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The collection of various memorabilia, Thomas added, is “a reminder that these are shared objects that so many of us enjoy, and that’s one of the things I really love about it.”

People on the internet are fans of the forgotten remains too. The site has been popular for years, McKellar said, but the initiative has recently spread further on social media.

“The Oakland Public Library scans the scraps of paper that people leave in library books, and I’m obsessed with it.” tweeted Annie Rauwerda — a recent University of Michigan graduate who works as a comedian, writer, and content creator.

She came across the project in a newsletter and was immediately enthusiastic.

“It’s just so endearing to see people’s private personal thoughts that haven’t been written for an audience,” said Rauwerda, 22, who runs the popular Twitter account. @deepsofwiki. “It’s very understandable.”

She spent an hour scrolling the site and picking out a few favorites – which she shared in a thread. Some are silly and some are cute.

in the a pictureA handwritten post-it says “The squirrel can type!!!” on a book page with illustrations of a squirrel using a typewriter.

Another shows a book review Art, written in childish penmanship on lined paper.

“I love this book,” read the review. “It stole my heart and made me cry.”

“If you find tear stains,” it continues, “you will now know that they are mine. Enjoy!”

McKellar and her staff at the library have also found wistful and insightful love letters.

“When you broke my heart… you set me free. Thank you,” reads a note.

“Remember I love you honey,” reads another. “The past is the past, so let’s not take it home with us. I just want to love you and be happy.”

“I always wonder who left it,” McKellar said. “Did the author ever give it to this person? Did they accidentally leave it or didn’t they really care?”

She revels in the mystery – which she knows will never really be solved. For her, that’s part of the appeal.

“I find it fascinating to see these little glimpses into other people’s lives,” McKellar said. “They feel very human.”

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