How NOT to Save Your Photos


Photos found in donated books (click to enlarge)

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.

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 collectible. 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 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 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.

presset leaves

Pressed…um, leaves

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)
  • 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.

This is not the best way to save your photos!

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!

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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.

  6. It’s amazing how much paper I found in my mom’s and dad’s books when we were clearing out their homes. I found a poem that my mother loved in one of her favorite books. I framed it with my parents’ wedding picture. It’s hanging on my family photos wall.

  7. Interesting topic! You are so right that inside a book is not a way to save photos! I personally use a bookmark, or a folded piece of blank paper inside my books. However, when helping clients to declutter and donate books, I’ve come across photos, greeting cards, postcards and money in between the pages. It is so important to check the books before donating them!

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