In our effort to stay abreast of constantly evolving technology–e-books and e-book readers, digitization projects, and the possibilities of online research–it can be easy to get lost in a screen, pursuing increasingly deeper layers of information without even speaking to anyone or leaving your chair. It can be easy to forget the value of a library as a physical space, where you make yourself available to the serendipity of running into someone you hadn’t planned to meet or stumbling across a book you didn’t know you wanted.
Whatever questions we’re clicking away at or flipping pages towards, it’s uniquely clear in a library that there are just as many stories behind every question and search as there are in the millions of books in the stacks. As we go from place to place, our lives overlap, and we leave traces of ourselves in each other’s days: snatches of overheard conversation, directions asked or given, smiles, eye contact. The marks and evidence we make on these books we share is no exception: fingerprints on covers, dog-eared pages, receipts and photographs bookmarking where you left off, grains of sand from the beach you were laying on trapped between mylar and dust jacket. A few people, like the folks who wrote the Post-It notes pictures below, even leave these things intentionally, along the lines of the PostSecret collections or Found Magazine.
Some of us collect these bits of strangers’ ephemera. Here are samples of some of the things you left here, tucked between pages and left on shelves: little notes and clues of your story, signs that you were here.