Lost in a Book: A Central Ohio Librarian Muses on Unusual Makeshift Bookmarks

From toilet paper to love notes to fruit peels, Scott Woods has seen some weird items tucked into pages of returned books during his library career.

Scott Woods
A few of the makeshift bookmarks Scott Woods has found in returned library books.

As someone who’s worked in public libraries for nearly 30 years, I’ve seen a lot of things used as bookmarks. Each day is like opening a creepy advent calendar, every book holding the promise or curse of something interesting stuck between its pages. 

Toilet Paper: The reigning king of not-bookmarks, which makes sense. Most people read in the bathroom. 

Religious Tracts: Perhaps the most intentional of all random bookmarks, so much so that they should probably be categorized under marketing or mission-based geocaching. Frequently embroidered.

Banana Peels: Plural for a reason: I wish I could say I’ve only found one of these in a book.

Pressed Flowers: Clearly driven by the season: dandelions in summer, clovers in spring, leaves in fall, twigs in winter.

Joints: These always come half smoked. A definite fire hazard to the reader. Don’t do this to library books.

A Love Note: I once came across an index card with “I love you K” (redacted) written on it. Underneath was a drawing of a heart with three traditionally male stick figures in it, all holding hands. This bookmark was brimming with mystery. Is K one of the figures and the artist is just weak? Is it a note from three guys who love K equally? Did K reciprocate the gesture with a drawing of their own? I’ll search every book from now until I die looking for a response.

This story appears in the May 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.