From drawings to lists to photos, this librarian collects everything people leave in books


The Oakland Library now lists 375 items in its collection of found objects in library books. — Image courtesy of Daniel Balakov/Getty Images via ETX Studio

Thursday, August 11, 2022 08:45 MYT

OAKLAND, Aug. 11 — A librarian presents insights into the stories hidden in books — not the stories told by the words they contain, but stories emerging through the stuff readers leave between their pages. She has created a veritable online collection by digitizing these artifacts. The initiative invites us to imagine the life of these anonymous people.

A book can tell many stories. In Oakland, California, librarian Sharon McKellar collects and sorts all notes, lists, doodles, photos, letters, and other forgotten items hidden within the pages of books returned to the public library. She then digitizes all these artifacts and uploads them to OPL’s website (Oakland Public Library).

“I had always collected little things that I found in library books and I knew other people were doing the same. That’s how it all started. It was quite simple, I was inspired by a magazine called Magazine found“said Sharon McKellar National Public Radio (NPR) August 2, 2022.

Since the 2000s, this magazine has been compiling found objects like love letters, birthday cards, homework, and poetry written on napkins and then publishing them as a magazine.

The Oakland librarians seem to welcome their colleague’s project with enthusiasm and participate by sending the objects they unearth to Sharon McKellar. The collection includes more than 350 notes, post-its, drawings, lists and photographs.

For Sharon McKellar, these curiosities feed our imagination. As she explains to NPR, these objects allow you to be “a little nosy”. In a very anonymous way, it’s like reading a little of people’s diaries but without knowing who they are.

This new adventure could now give rise to a writing workshop to imagine the stories that these objects could contain. — Studio ETX


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