The Most Bizarre Things Librarians Have Found in Returned Books

Is there anything that can't or won't be used to mark someone's place in a library book? According to one librarian, you'd be surprised.

As a librarian I usually agree that most things do go better with a book, especially meals, baths, and country picnics. Apparently many people agree—and they take it quite a bit further than I ever would! Here are some things that have been found in library books (not necessarily by me or my colleagues). Let’s break it down by categories:


Apparently valuables also make great bookmarks. We’re talking crisp $100 bills, credit cards, lottery tickets, Broadway show tickets, and even live paychecks (not a receipt of direct deposit).


Books seem to make great keepsakes for products of nature. Librarians have opened returned books to find pressed flowers, four-leaf clovers, dandelions gone to seed, and whole marijuana leaves. (No one got arrested, that we know of.)


What you do in your private reading time sometimes ends up in public. Imagine picking up a returned book and having one of these fall out: tampons (thankfully unused), unrolled condoms (ditto), a home pregnancy test (positive!), and a glass vial labeled “smallpox sample.” A little scary and unbelievable, but at least these weren’t as crazy overdue as these 11 library books.


Sharp objects and books should probably not go together, and yet librarians have found scissors, knives, a cheese slicer, and even a small hatchet.

Theoretically edible

Eating and reading are a natural combo, which is why snacks are a popular bookmark. We’re talking Cheetos (mostly crumbled), a pickle slice, a Pop-Tart, a Kraft Single (still wrapped), and even whole strips of bacon (both cooked and raw).

Way too personal

If you thought condoms and tampons were private, these other items make those look tame. Librarians have found genuine love letters, a list of “karma violations,” a visitor registration form for the county jail, divorce agreements, and even naughty photos. These are the best short books you can read a day—maybe you won’t even need a bookmark!