I keep a shoebox in the back of my closet that I have stuffed with three years of memories and not a single one belongs to me.
I suppose you could say that fate gave me my job. The day after I was rejected from the job I had interviewed for, I went down to my local library to inquire about a position that they offered through Boston's Youth Employment Network. Through a series of coincidences, including the abandonment of the position by the previous worker and a rapidly approaching deadline, I was hired for the summer. And though shelving books can be quite tedious, I went back during my sophomore year, the summer after that, and then again last summer.
After three years and seeing hundreds of books a day, I have come to realize that people leave an awful lot of things behind. Patrons mark their spot in Wilde or the latest romance novel with all sorts of exciting things. Often times, they forget to take them out when they are finished where I find them, and collect them.
I see book reviews sprawled across sticky notes by seven-year-old hands, strange sketches of dancing skeletons, and many, many postcards. I read letters sent between lovers, distant family members, and dear friends. I find lists of books that the reader has enjoyed, restaurants in the neighborhood, and interesting words in the text. I pack them all into the shoebox that I keep at home, and save the lost memories.
I believe that a lot can be learned from the things that are left behind in books. You can see the places that they've been from the train, bus, and plane tickets. You can see the things they've done from the calendar pages. I'm always surprised by the things that I find, but I never expected to learn about myself.
I've always known that I love stories; I can barely remember not being able to read, my room is arranged around my bookshelves, and I've been trying to catch up with my imagination for years. Most of the stories that I knew were about fantastical adventures or people with extraordinary lives, but as I became enthralled by the commonplace things that were being left between the pages of library books, I realized that one does not have to be exciting to be interesting.