Books hold more secrets than just stories

The Halifax Public Library finds notes and other treasures hidden between book pages.

You make your way to the local library to get your hands on the newest literary sensation. As you near the checkout desk, you peel your eyes away from the page and notice a stray piece of paper poking out the top.

Tugging on the corner reveals it’s in fact a long-lost postcard.

This is one of the many examples of the hidden gems that library staff find in books, says Christina Covert, Halifax Central Library’s circulation supervisor.

“The normal Kleenex, grocery receipts, bills, bank statements — those we see all the time,” says Covert.

A quick walk around the library’s third floor results in a new bookmark, a postcard and tiny sugar-packet-sized drawing being added to the collection of forgotten items.

Bookmark, drawing and postcard found during a quick search at the library. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns)
Bookmark, drawing and postcard found during a quick search of books at the library. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns)

Covert says she’s seen everything from toilet paper and condom wrappers to government cheques stuck between pages.

For important items, such as debit and credit cards, the library tries to track down the owner. If their efforts turn up empty, the library typically holds on to items for about a month before throwing them out.

Then there are little notes purposefully stuck in a book’s spine.

“I especially like the ones where people recommend a particular book,” says Covert, “Like, ‘If you like this then you might also like that,’ type of thing.”

Although the library doesn’t condone leaving things in books, sometimes it’s hard to prevent.

“If it’s on a small piece of scrap paper, we won’t notice unless it falls out,” says Covert. “Books can go for month and months without us knowing someone’s put something inside it.”

Kasia Morrison, a spokeswoman for the library, says last fall she saw a book and there was a note in it stating the book had come all the way from Iceland.

Flipping through the pages reveals it’s the property of the Library and Archives Canada, and was last checked out in 1987. Morrison is unsure how – or why – it ended up at the central location.

“Someone wanted to clear their library conscience and return it,” she says with a laugh.

Safe to say, the note was anonymous.

Covert’s favourite note actually came from a children’s book. “It was a list of someone’s goals. ‘When I’m 30, I will have done this’,” she says.

“It was in big letters, some were even backwards,” she says with a smile.

Unfortunately, not all notes are as heartwarming.

“I’ve seen books with notes discouraging people from picking up certain authors,” says Covert.

And that’s if they haven’t defaced the book completely.

“Use your imagination for what you could possibly find in a book. If you can think of it, someone is going to do it, and you can find it if you look hard enough,” says Covert.