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What's lost in a book at Burlington library?

Posted by Sara Brown  August 4, 2010 12:41 PM

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The lost bookmark board is a revolving piece of art at the Burlington Library.

A photo of a black puppy with a toy bunny in its mouth.  A mass card for Rev. John R. Crispo.  A Happy Mother’s Day card for “Nana.”  A purple “Award of Excellence” ribbon.  A piece of lined paper colored with bright dots of purple, yellow, blue and green and the words “Juliana Book Mark.” 

While these items once helped people find their place in a library book, they now decorate a green board with a “Did you lose your bookmark?” sign in Burlington’s Town Library.  Library staff put items found in returned books on the board in hopes that library patrons will be reunited with items of sentimental value. 

“To us, some bookmark (someone’s) child gave them has no monetary value but its sentimental,” said Cara Thissell, the circulation librarian.  She had the idea to put up the board a few years ago, as an alternative to throwing out the sentimental items. 

Now, it’s an evolving piece of art in the library.  “We leave it up until it starts falling over,” Thissell said.  “We don’t really police it.  Kids climb up on the bench to look at it.”

This spring, the board helped some find their lost belongings.  “Last week, people found two photos,” said Janet Zahora, who has worked at the library for 15 years.  “A little boy saw a picture of himself and said, “that’s me!”

"It’s a colorful decoration,” she added.

Sometimes people recognize themselves in the pictures, or people they know.  Sometimes the librarians recognize regular library visitors.

Yet the board doesn’t tell the entire story of items left in library books.

Library employees said people leave all kinds of things in their borrowed books, from important documents to sentimental photos and drawings to—apparently, whatever’s handy.

The library staff once found $500 in a book, Zahora said.  The cash was reunited with the person who left it. 

“We find passports and personal things—lots of shopping lists.  Inappropriate pictures—we didn’t post those for the world to see,” she added.

Frequent items, according to the librarians, are photos, mass cards, hair clips and shopping lists.  Sometimes people turn in their books with mail and bills to be paid inside. 

“Sometimes they’re stamped and ready to go so we send those out,” said Zahora. 

Recently, a woman returned an unused Barnes and Noble gift card that she found in her library book.  The library traced previous borrowers and asked “did you leave anything in your book?”  The patron got his or her birthday gift card back.

The board also gives a small clue about the aesthetic tastes of Burlington residents—about seven lost bookmarks were emblazoned with flowers, including two with Van Gogh’s “Irises” painting. 

While these items add a little color to the library, other items are less appreciated.

“Ask people not to use toilet paper or tissues as book marks.  It’s really gross,” said Thissell.  

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