Tuesday, March 13, 2012

book note.jpg
Photo by Jon Augustine, the Daily Nebraskan

What you see above is a book from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's library and a note that was recently found inside of it. The note reads:

David Erbach used this June 12 1963. Just for kicks, drop me a note at 2979 Dudley. I am curious just how often this vital info is perused.

Wow -- very Permanent Record, right? As described in this article, the note was recently found by a UNL professor named Richie Graham, who decided to track down David Erbach. Erbach appears to have been delighted by the connection (“It’s like putting a note into a bottle and chucking it into the ocean,”) but doesn't recall having written the note, which is a shame.

Library books don't need to have 50-year-old notes hiding within their pages in order to be Permanent Record-ish, incidentally. For example, I recently acquired several dozen of these old library check-out cards (click image to enlarge):


The handwritten names, the typewritten book titles, the ink-stamped dates -- it's a potpourri of data styles. These cards are from the library at one of America's more exclusive prep academies. I purchased them from a woman on Etsy who works in that library and told me she harvested the cards "one by one from old books" as the library's operations were digitized and the cards were no longer needed. If you want some for yourself, she continues to sell them here. (You can also get someone's personal library card from long ago.)

I haven't tried to track down any of the students whose names appear on the check-out cards. Just seeing them there is satisfying enough.

(Special thanks to Robert Eden for pointing me toward the UNL story.)


  1. I LOVE finding things in old books. For awhile, I seemed to be getting a lot of foreign money and railway tickets (was I reading more travel books? Or books that traveling people would read? Who knows?), but a note like this, dated, is TOPS! What a cool story.

  2. The last 3 books I've read have all had interesting things fall out of them. The first, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, was borrowed from my brother-in-law. He'd used a receipt from a visit to the Durham Bulls stadium & team store and left it toward the end. Not that exciting.
    The second, Jim Bouton's Ball Four (possibly the first edition, from 1970, found at a yard sale), contained a business card from a Lawrence H. White, Ass't Prof. of Economics at NYU. Turns out he's at George Mason as a Professor of Economics now, and was at UM-St. Louis (the city I'm in, so not that unusual after all) between NYU and GMU. His bio isn't specific about when he was at NYU or Georgia, but it evidently falls between 1982 (received PhD from UCLA) and 2000 (started at UMSL).
    The most recent I found, in James David Barber's The Presidential Character (also at a yard sale; published '72, so also very probably a first edition), was a typewritten note, from an apparent professor named Joseph P. Kelly, dated April 30, 1980 to a young lady named Sherry regarding reading material (in the book in question). Turns out he received his PhD in Political Science from Washington University here in St. Louis. Interestingly, in 1980 he was at Webster University (also in St. Louis), but not as a professor, so far as I can tell; his obituaries (he died in '09) indicate he was VP of academic affairs and/or dean of the faculty at the time, so he was probably teaching a class on the side.
    Nothing quite as exciting as a "whoever finds this, look me up," but a link to the past nonetheless.

  3. Those old check-out cards really take me back. That is a great Etsy find.

  4. Just came across this entry and it reminded me of a crazy story. Last year my wifes nephew checked out a book from the library and the check-out card had my wifes name on it. They had checked out the same book about 23 years apart! Also crazy is that kids are still checking out books from the library in this internet age!!