COLUMBIA, SC — If you can learn about people by what books they read, can you learn even more by the things they leave behind in those books?
If so, a new bulletin board at the Richland Library’s operations center serves as a telling scrapbook of the lives of the county’s avid readers.
The readers are history buffs and world travelers. They party and gossip. They are family-oriented. Sometimes, they drive too fast.
Earlier this year, the Richland Library Friends debuted the bulletin board, filled with dozens of pictures, letters, news clippings and assorted personal items that have been left inside donated books. The Library Friends hold a used book sale four times a year to raise money for Richland Library, and the bulletin board is available for viewing during those sales.
There are pictures from weddings, from drunken parties and from trips. There are postcards from around the globe.
Invitations, ticket stubs, traffic citations and even a citizens band radio license have served as book marks.
A letter to Santa, written on Winnie the Pooh stationery, is from a child named Hannah. An unused $25 gift certificate from Steak & Ale reminds people of a restaurant that’s been closed for more than a dozen years.
Among the favorites of the volunteers is this note, written on scratch paper:
“Boo – Remind me to tell you about Gaga’s new neighbor who drinks liquor in the middle of the day, according to Thomas Pease. I’ll call you on your cell phone. Love, WW.”
For years, the bulletin board has been a spot for notices about library programs and public service announcements, largely unnoticed by book lovers who shop the sales, said Tina Auman, the book sale committee chairwoman.
Now, they stop to look because the board is filled with interesting things, including someone’s personal photo with President Richard Nixon and an article on women’s suffrage from the April 15, 1916 edition of a Charleston newspaper.
“We hate to throw anything away because we think it’s kind of neat,” Auman said. “You never know when you open a box what you might find.”
Among the surprises are a calf’s jawbone, also on display, and racy photos from someone’s 1970s-era honeymoon.
“We didn’t post those,” Auman said.
Clark groups pictures by themes: Parties, weddings, children, military service. The collection has filled the bulletin board and she now staples new finds to the wall.
“It really is fabulous because every bit of that stuff did come out of a book, except for the calf’s jawbone,” Clark said. “People figure a book is a safe place to keep something. It keeps things flat and safe. People just don’t think about them again when they get rid of books.”
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.