As librarians, we come across a lot of strange things that patrons leave behind when they are returning books or visiting the Library – both between the pages and on the shelves. Everything from grocery receipts and airline boarding passes to moldy food and computer dongles. The vast majority of the time, we toss these in the trash or the lost and found without another thought (except for the time we found all the live roaches in a returned CD case… there was a fair amount of screaming that happened before we trashed those creepy-crawlies).
Every now and then, though, we come across something that was accidentally left behind in a book or on a shelf that we know the owner would like to have back. We’ll do our best to reunite the item with its owner, but it’s not always an easy task. Recently, one of our Teen Librarians came across a valuable item left behind while she was shelving books; and it took a little bit of ingenuity, a dash of research, and a load of determination and stick-to-itiveness to figure out how to get the item back to where it belonged.
It was just a normal morning in the Teen Zone. Librarian Chelsie was taking advantage of the quiet before we open to straighten shelves and get ready for the day. It was while she was straightening that she found a card on one of the shelves. When she opened it, a picture of a young boy fell out. Upon closer inspection, Chelsie realized it was a funeral program for a young man who had passed away in his late twenties. The funeral program was not new, either – it was from 2001, making it 20 years old! Having lasted that long, this item was clearly very important to someone.
“I don’t know if it fell out of a book or someone’s bag, but I knew that I had to try and return it to one of the young man’s relatives,” said Chelsie. “I couldn’t just put it in our lost and found, this was too special. He was loved and someone was missing him.”
Chelsie’s quest to return the item to the person who had inadvertently left it at the Library started by Googling names listed on the program. This didn’t provide many answers, so she tried looking for his obituary using Google, but with no luck.
That’s when Chelsie put her Library resources and research skills to use. She went onto our Ancestry.com and Wyoming Newspapers online databases to search for more information. Bingo! She was able to find his obituary, along with names of surviving family members.
“It was clear how much he loved his family,” said Chelsie. She found one of his daughters on social media and sent her a message. The daughter responded quickly with her mailing address, and Chelsie was able to mail the program and picture to her, getting it back into the hands of the young man’s loved ones.
And in the end? Chelsie says she felt like Nancy Drew! Librarians… your neighborhood detectives, at your service.