Home Creative writing The Oakland Public Library is putting online a collection of forgotten items in library books: love notes, doodles, and more.

The Oakland Public Library is putting online a collection of forgotten items in library books: love notes, doodles, and more.


Librarians are champions of the organization, and among its best practitioners.

Books are classified according to the Dewey Decimal system.

Categories are assigned using Interpretations of Library of Congress Rules, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and Library of Congress Classification.

And Sharon McKellar, the head of the teen services department at the Oakland Public Library, collects ephemera that she and other staff find in books returned to the 18 OPL locations.

It is an impulse that many share.

Eventually she started scanning them to share on his employer’s websiteinspired by Magazine founda participatory collection of found letters, birthday cards, children’s homework, to-do lists, handwritten poems, doodles, dirty pictures, and more.

As Found’the creators, Davy Rothbart and Jason Bitner, write on the magazine’s website:

We certainly didn’t invent the idea that found stuff is cool. Whenever we visit our friends in other cities, someone always has some kind of amazing discovery note or photo on their fridge. We decided to do a bunch of projects so everyone could experience all the weird, hilarious, and heartbreaking things people have picked up and passed our way.

McKellar said NPR that his project “allows us to be a little curious. In a very anonymous way, it’s like reading a little of people’s diaries but without knowing who they are.

The finds, which she stores in a box under her desk before scanning and posting them, are pushing 600, and more are coming all the time.

Searchable categories include Remarks, creative writing, artand Pictures.

An artifact, the one-of-a-kind scatological zine Mister Men #48excerpt above, covers four categories, including kidsa very fertile source of humor and heartbreak.

There’s a distinctly different vibe to the objects children forge for themselves or each other, as opposed to works created for school or as gifts for the adults in their lives.

McKellar admits to having a soft spot for their unwitting contributions, which make up the bulk of the collection.

She also lists disposable flyers, ticket stubs, and lists that adult readers use to mark their place in a book, but when it comes to placeholders with more obvious potential for sentimental value, she wonders. if a library patron accidentally lost track of a valuable item:

Is the person missing this item? Do they regret losing it or were they negligent because they didn’t share those deep, deep feelings with the person who wrote [it]?

Real bookmarks are not exempt…

Future plans include a possible writing competition for short stories inspired by elements of the collection.

Browse the collection of books found in a library here.

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Ayun Halliday is the chief primatologist of East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Little Potato Manifesto. Am here @AyunHalliday.