I’ve recently had the good fortune (or perhaps misfortune) to judge the winner of the oddest thing ever found in a library book for the Reading Agency, and it was an illuminating experience.
It seems readers are a mucky lot. Librarians found a lot of unmentionables, that I’m not of course, going to mention, as well as a great deal of food. Bacon rashers – cooked and raw – featured prominently, as did chocolate bars, or their wrappers, orange peel, a chicken bone (we hope!), and mummified pizza. One librarian even found a fried egg, while another came across a kipper (luckily still in its vacuum-packed plastic).
A few readers were more considerate of those wonderful people who look after our books, and inserted between the pages ‘A Note From Emily,’ saying why she’d enjoyed the book, and in another, a letter saying how much that borrower loved their library.
But people can be forgetful, clearly grabbing the closest thing to hand to use as a bookmark, including postcards, a ‘herbal’ cigarette, train tickets, receipts, hairclips, loo roll, ribbons, spooky tarot cards, and quite a bit of money. Some of the money was reunited with its owners, as was the baby scan photo found in a parenting book.
However, librarians aren’t completely blameless when it comes to forgetfulness. Staff at one library found a debit card in a book and just as a particular librarian started criticising the stupidity of the debit card owner, she looked at the card and it was hers. Another library found a red sock in a fiction book which was claimed by an ex member of staff. When she was asked about it, she said she couldn’t find anything else to use as a bookmark.
But after sifting through all the entries, I’m pleased to announce that the winner is the entry from Rachael Smart (@smartrachael) on Twitter, who runs the book club for The Motherload. She found the sinisterly beautiful and appropriate, pressed cabbage white butterfly, ‘fragile as lace, tucked inside the pages of The Silence of the Lambs’.
Thank you to everyone who entered. You have given me a great deal of entertainment, even if that did include quite a bit of squealing in disgust.
And to read about the oddest things that Americans found in library books click here.