Library Super Services: Lost and Found

| March 14, 2011

This mini series of posts about “super” library services is to highlight some of the interesting, hidden, under-utilized, etc. services of the Gottesman library at TC. There are many unique services and resources here at TC –this list is by no means exhaustive. I’m choosing some of my favorites but if anyone would like to see something specific highlighted, please let me know.

Ever lose anything at the library? Ever wonder what happens to items left behind?

Want to hear a story about how great it is to be re-united with something you value and fear may be gone forever?

The setting: last year, just before finals. The vibe at the library is tense;  students are more rushed for time, crowded for space,  and the smell of pizza permeates the 2nd floor.  As per usual, I arrive on Sunday morning and begin to sort through the library’s lost and found drawer. Among the water bottles, scarves, flash drives and “personals” pouches

I find a notebook full of solved math problems, formulas, a study guide and lots of notes.  My mind instantly pictures a heavy-lidded, back cramped someone, wrapping up long study session and, of all things, inadvertently leaving this on a table. This, the culmination of hours of lugubrious problem solving.  This, the key to understanding the exam, the class, life.

I waste no time. Luckily, I can find a name, not a full name but a first initial and a last name. I channel my inner Nancy Drew and begin my research (look him up in the Columbia directory.) After hours of piecing clues together (10 seconds)… I find him! I email him. He arrives, grateful and incredibly relieved.

I got my first library hug that day and this is what I hold on to every time I think about selling lost stuff on ebay or burying it as a time capsule…just kidding. (About selling stuff of ebay, the story is all true.)

Here is the more complete description of how lost and found works at the library.


If non-TC library books are returned to the TC library, they are kept here for 1-2 weeks (under normal circumstances)  and then returned to their respective library. On Sundays, we carry stacks of books back to Butler, SIPA, UTS and other CU affiliate libraries.  (Say hello if you see us, but don’t expect a wave back…those books are heavy!) We’ve sent books back to high schools in Mississippi, universities in Montana and of course, multiple branches of the New York Public Libraries. (Rest assured it actually doesn’t matter which NYPL branch receives the book since they maintain a “rotating collection.


At the end of each day, library service staff collect belongings and either deliver them to the security desk or store them in a lost and found drawer in the library. If your name, email address or any other kind of identifying information is anywhere on the item, you will get an email from someone at the library (often me) reporting what we’ve found and asking you to come pick it up. Everything else is held for a while (in hopes their owner will come for them) then donated to Housing Works, a not-for profit committed to improving living and housing conditions for people affected by HIV/AIDS. Housing Works operates several thrift stores and we usually donate to the one on Montague Street in Brooklyn. Hopefully, you’ve never lost anything at the library but if you have…and it’s not here…it could be on a shelf there waiting for you…

Questions? Suggestions?  Please let us know.