Thursday, January 15, 2009

You Never Know What You'll Find in a Book

Henry Alford wrote an essay in The New York Times called You Never Know What You'll Find in a Book asking "what prompts people to leave unusual objects inside books." He started pondering this idea after finding out that the novelist Reynolds Price once found a slice of fried bacon within the pages of a book in the Duke University library.

He mentioned that some of the items found in books in secondhand bookstores have included some bizarre objects -- scissors, a bullet, a used Q-tip, a baby's tooth, drugs, and 40 $1,000 bills.

Several authors/artists responded to his query about what they leave in the books they read (not library books):
  • Anne Rice has "filled books with flowers I've received, to save the flowers in dried form and to remember the happy moment of receiving them."
  • Diana Abu-Jaber recalled putting a favorite photograph of a friend's greyhound inside a book and then promptly left the book on a plane.
  • Musician Dan Zanes once used a book to store a prized possession given him by his mother -- a rare photograph of J.D. Salinger.

The Paper Cuts Blog of the New York Times followed up on that essay in their post Librarian, There's Some Bacon in My Book saying that "there seems to be a lot of skepticism about the bacon bookmark urban legend." One of the readers of the blog responded in a comment to try and clear up this matter once and for all:

"I'm the cartoonist of Unshelved (the library comic strip). We speak at library conferences about a dozen times a year, and each time we always ask the attendees if they've ever personally experienced bacon as a bookmark. Every time between two and five people raise their hands. The only time they didn't was in Alaska, where several people had personally experienced salmon as a bookmark" -- Bill Barnes.

So, I was wondering when our library books get checked in what kind of things are found in them? Here are some of the items our clerks have found:
  • Leaves (used as bookmarks)
  • Letters
  • Pictures
  • An unused cigarette
  • An unused tissue
  • Money
  • Bugs (small spiders, etc.)
  • Lottery ticket (no, it wasn't a winner)
  • Library cards
  • Toothpicks
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Pay stubs
  • Calling cards
  • Airline boarding passes
  • Credit cards
  • A slice of pizza*
  • A slice of unwrapped processed cheese*
*And yes, the patron was charged for the damage to the book from these items. But, we've never had any bacon!!

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