SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Going through two small boxes that fit on a tabletop at Scottsdale Public Library’s Appaloosa Library, Jennifer Wong-Ortiz and Jenny Lundin pull out various pieces of paper, bookmarks and photos.
The women will find a piece, show each other it and comment on the contents upon occasion.
“This is just a little bit of what we get,” Wong-Ortiz, the library’s community engagement and outreach coordinator, said pointing to the items.
These items are all things that have been accidentally returned in books readers borrowed from the Scottsdale Public Library.
While, yes, there are quite a few legitimate, colorful and personalized bookmarks scattered in the boxes, there are unique items used as bookmarks too.
“I think this one’s so cool,” Lundin, a librarian, said pointing out a black and white photo of a man.
A to-do list, a letter to Santa mailed from Ohio and a bright-colored checkbook cover are all among the items readers left in books.
“A CD case, because that works to keep your place in your book,” Lundin said.
Not only do the items carry stories themselves, but stories also heard about what other librarians have found between the pages.
“I think somebody found like a piece of bologna in a library book once,” Wong-Ortiz said, to which Lundin quickly agrees she’s heard the same urban legend.
They note they do find items like folded, unused toilet paper too.
“Band aids are probably the grossest thing I find,” Wong-Ortiz said.
In the covers, they’ll also find items with a tale of their own.
“I found a breakup letter one time,” Lundin said. “Which was really personal and really sad, but also kind of beautiful and just interesting to find, to get a glimpse into someone else’s life.”
While the books may tell stories of adventure, the items returned can tell of adventures the books have taken with their borrowed readers.
Things like a plane ticket from Madrid, and money from Costa Rica are among those items.
“Somebody went to Maui for maybe a honeymoon,” Wong-Ortiz said, pulling out a brochure.
Recently, a staff member found a white card, the size of a business card, tucked into one of the returned books.
“It says: You are loved, valuable, crafted with beauty and purpose. There is no one like you. This world needs you as you are. There are millions of reasons why you are here. There is no truth in the lie that you don’t matter,” Wong-Ortiz reads. “You are not an accident. You are not a mistake. You are extraordinary. You don’t need to talk like the rest, be like the rest.”
It’s in pieces loaned out, the staff find sometimes, a piece of the reader is accidentally returned too.
“These are people that we’re helping out in the community,” Wong-Ortiz said. “And now they’re kind of, maybe unintentionally, giving a little piece of themselves back to us as well.”
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