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Library books not always empty when returned

By REBECCA BURK ELLIS / L’Observateur / August 17, 1998

LAPLACE – Greeting cards, outgoing mail, a $10 bill, snapshots, bugs, even cereal. All of these are examples of items Sharon Manuel has found inreturned library books.

Manuel, patron services supervisor at the LaPlace branch of the St. Johnthe Baptist Parish Library, said while she checks in books she tries to get everything out of them that readers may have left.

“Basically we try to catch things when the books are returned to the front desk,” she said.

But sometimes the books laden with items get through the cracks and back on the shelves.

Manuel said then sometimes the next patron to check out the book will return the item, and sometimes she finds items herself later while moving books around.

Recently while sifting through some books she noticed a slight bulge in one of them. When she opened the book she found a Cheerio.”Unfortunately, we do find food in books,” she said. “That does nothing forthe bug problem because we do find those, too, but they are kind of smooshed by then.”She said they also find money occasionally, and the most she remembers finding is a $10 bill. She has found snapshots and birthday cards, whichshe can usually return because there is a name on it. She also gets hershare of finding outgoing bills.

“If there’s a stamp on it I’ll just mail it for them, but if not we call them,” she said.

Manuel said the stuff they find in returned books is placed in the lost and found box until someone claims it. But with their new computerizedsystem she can easily find out who checked the book out last and call to tell them about their lost item, if in fact the item turns out to be theirs.

But sometimes when a book hasn’t been checked out in a while and an item is found, the chances are slimmer of getting the items to their rightful owner. Manuel was recently moving some cookbooks and some hand-written recipes fell out of one. “That one hadn’t been checked out for awhile,” she said, referring to the book.

Manuel said the best way to keep your things is to use a bookmark. “Booksaren’t holding places for personal belongings,” she said. “If you use abookmark you won’t stick mail and other personal belongings within.”And Manuel recommends bookmarks for other reasons besides loosing important papers, bills, money and pictures. Bookmarks extend the life ofbooks, while other items may damage pages or the binding. “Dog-earingpages and paper clips aren’t good because they rip the pages,” she said.

And eating while reading only leaves possibly Cheerios inside the book or even smudges of food on the pages, which attract bugs. “But some peopleinsist on eating while they read,” she said.

The library has free bookmarks at the counter, Manuel said.

“They’re not very pretty right now,” she said, referring to the bookmarks with the hurricane preparation theme. “But they are functional.”

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