Published: April 22, 2019

There are plenty of reasons to love an old book, including the found forgotten objects that have held a reader’s spot, or that were tucked away for safekeeping, meant to be retrieved before the book was returned to the library, but often forgotten.

These items are rediscovered by the University Libraries when a borrowed book has been returned, or an acquisition made by the Special Collections, Preservation, and Archive (SCAP) department. The librarians and students at the University Libraries have a few stories of their own, to say the least.

There is an entire bulletin board dedicated to objects found in library materials.

There is an entire bulletin board dedicated to objects found in library materials.

David Hays is a long time archivist with the Libraries. He said that over the years, laundry, old desiccated lunches, and apple cores have been found in archival materials.

“Pressed flowers and locks of hair seemed much more common in collections dating before 1930,” said Hays. “Locks of hair and pressed flowers were often included in correspondence and kept in diaries and scrapbooks, like dance cards, ribbons, and other such paraphernalia.”

The Libraries Building Manager Carl Stewart said he once found a flattened, dry strawberry in a book. He noted that it had been preserved quite nicely.

“It surprisingly just left a light red kiss inside the book!” said Stewart.

“I once had a book with a note indicating that the back inside cover needed attention,” said Megan Lambert, SCAP’s preservation supervisor. “When I opened the back cover I found a partial, flattened, little red snake.”

This is not to say the Libraries want to find plants, food, or small reptiles in their books. Hillary Morgan is a conservator in SCAP. She said it’s okay to leave some things in books. In fact, she loves finding old letters or notes in-between book pages. But some gifts are not worth giving.  

“The items that will cause the most damage over time include organic items which can cause staining, eat away at the paper, attract pests, or encourage mold growth,” said Morgan. “Leaves, food, and newsprint seem to be the common things I see.”

Morgan cautions against newsprint, as the acids from this type of paper cause staining over time. Tape or other adhesives are also acidic, she noted. Post-it notes may be fine in the short term, but over time Morgan said they will begin to degrade and damage the pages they are stuck to.

Morgan noted that if a book gets damaged, the borrower should still return it.

“If we are able to catch damage when a book is returned, we can begin to treat it right away, for things like water damage or tape stuck to pages," she said. "The quicker we can treat the book the better. It can also be useful in some cases to know what caused the problem, so we can better determine how to treat it.”

What is the weirdest thing you have found in one of our Libraries books? Tweet @cublibraries this week and let us know for the chance to win a free iced drink from the Laughing Goat in Norlin Commons. For more information on Preservation Week 2019 library events, go to