How NOT to save your photos or donate books
Have you ever hidden anything in a book? Maybe used a photo as a bookmark? I don’t recommend it as a way to save your photos! Here’s why:
I volunteer weekly for my local Friends of 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.
My specific job is to research old – er, I mean, vintage – children’s books to see if they might be collectible. (Spoiler alert: Not all first editions are valuable!) If so, we sell them online for “real money”. 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 category interests them – art books, mysteries, music CDs, etc.
One day Melissa, our volunteer coordinator, and I were 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 anonymously. They could be from someone who is simply decluttering their bookshelves, or downsizing to move, to someone whose entire library was donated because they died and their family didn’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, for memorabilia before donating, but clearly not often enough to catch everything.
Things 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 all varieties
- Old photos (including naked ones)
- Money (my aunt found $40 just last week)
- Receipts (some more interesting than others)
- Birth certificates from the 1890’s
- Articles about the book or author
- Pressed leaves of various types
- Dog show ribbon
- 1960 Korean wedding invitation
- Little kid’s handwritten Christmas wish list
This is not the best way to save your photos, or to donate books!
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. Sometimes we give it a try.
Although it’s highly entertaining for us to find your keepsakes stuck in the pages of your donated books, I think you can see why it’s not the best way to preserve your personal memories.
What do you use as a bookmark?
What do you hide in books? Do you remember what and where it is 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!
This post was originally published in 2016, updated in 2019, and republished in March 2023 in honor of Melissa, who recently died. After 15 years on “the Tuesday crew”, I haven’t returned to the library since COVID shut it down in March 2020. Instead, I stayed home and finally wrote the two books I had been talking about writing. Many, but not all, of my co-volunteers did return after the library reopened, but business was never quite as usual. Melissa was the only paid member of Friends of the Library, and she was perfect for the job! Her book knowledge, sense of humor, and ability to lead such a diverse group of volunteers will be missed. She was a constant in our lives. RIP, Melissa!
- Copyright 2023 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life and Beyond
- Hazel is an author, genealogist, and retired home and office organizer.
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