How NOT to Save Your Photos


Photos found in donated books (click to enlarge)

I volunteer weekly at my local Friends for the Library. We price and sort donated books for our monthly used book sales (at which I also run a cash register), and we have a lovely used book shop in the Main library downtown which is open six days a week. We raise around $200K every year for library programs such as the Summer Reading Program for children.

dog ribbon memorabilia

Somebody’s dog won a prize

My specific job is to research old – I mean, vintage – children’s books to see if they might be worth “real money”. If so, we might sell them online. If not, I stick a bargain price tag on them. I get to work with children’s books because I enjoy them so much. I collect Newbery Medal award-winning books and get first dibs on the ones that cross my desk. Other volunteers get to work with whatever interests them – art books, mysteries, music CDs, etc.

This week Melissa, our director, was going through the box of things we find in books. We have around 50 volunteers altogether, and when one of us finds something interesting we put it in the box. Keep in mind that these books are all donated to us. They could be from someone simply decluttering their bookshelves or downsizing to move, to someone’s entire library being donated because they died and their family doesn’t know what else to do with it. I don’t know how often people check their own books, or those of a loved one, before donating, but clearly not often enough to catch everything.

presset leaves

Pressed…um, leaves

Like what?

Here is a sampling of items we’ve found in books:

  • Gift cards
  • Greeting cards (I like the old-fashioned Valentines)
  • Bookmarks, of course, of all varieties
  • Old photos (including naked ones)
  • Money (my aunt found $40 just last week)
  • Receipts (some more interesting than others)
  • Postcards
  • Birth certificates from the 1890’s
  • Articles about the book or author
  • Pressed leaves of various types
  • Feathers
  • Dog show ribbon
  • 1960 Korean wedding invitation
  • Little kid’s handwritten Christmas wish list

    2016-07-26 15.12.56

    I’m sorry I broke up with you without telling you.

It’s the photos that get to me, I wish there were a way of returning them to their families who may or may not even be missing them.

Although it’s highly entertaining for us to find your memorabilia stuck in the pages of your donated books, I submit that it’s not the best way to preserve your personal memories. Just sayin’!

What do you use as a bookmark?

What do you hide in books? Do you remember what and where later?

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve found in a book?

Do you check your books before donating them?

Please share in the comments below!

Copyright 2016 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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  1. My answers:

    1. What do you use as a bookmark?

    A real bookmark! I have a bunch I’ve accumulated over the years, including a few promoting my sister’s books.

    2. What do you hide in books? Do you remember what and where later?

    I can’t remember ever doing this, but I occasionally find stuff in books I borrow from the library or other people, or that I buy secondhand. Nothing as interesting as your finds though!

    3. Do you check your books before donating them?

    No, because (see answer to #2).

    • I’ve gone through various bookmark phases. Mostly, lately, I use a Post-It. I don’t hide things in books (well, except for one that was made to hide things in). And, funny, the books I donate most often are my clients’ and not only do I not check them, but it’s never really occurred to me before to suggest they check them! I’m like everyone else, I guess — glance at a book and if it doesn’t bulge, and nothing sticks out, assume it’s not hiding anything!

  2. I generally use whatever piece of paper I may have in my night stand as a bookmark although it’s rare because I mainly read on my iPad these days. It’s definitely worth a quick flip through a book to see what’s there. I worked in an elementary school library occasionally and often find tissues (unused) as bookmarks but also homework!

  3. I had a Webster’s dictionary I received from my parents when going off to college. Over the years I kept a few things between the pages as momentos. One special item was some of the flowers from my wedding bouquet. when we moved from Chicago to Austin, somehow the dictionary was lost. I miss that dictionary. It held precious memories.

  4. This is such a great post, and a wonderful reminder to me to make sure we check all books before donating. I need to remind my clients as well. I think we often stick items inside a book, and over time they can partially degrade and be so thin that we don’t realize they are there! What a nice service you provide to your library:)

  5. I found one of my grandfather’s old utility bills in a book that was handed down to me. Fascinating to see it was just over $10.00! I do have clients fan through pages of most books just to double check for things, but I’m sure we’ve missed items here and there. As for a bookmark…my daughter recently got me one that is hand carved wood. I’m trying very hard to use it instead of envelopes or receipts.

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