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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
In the properties storage room, security guard Denis McCue opens cabinets containing clothing and other items now in the lost and found at the ACPL.

Where has my little doll gone?

Local libraries find unusual items left behind in visitors’ forgetfulness

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Unusual items found in book return bins at the ACPL include ear buds, homemade CDs, sunglasses and a doll.

Someone is missing their baby doll.

It sits now in the bowels of the downtown Allen County Public Library, sad and forgotten, in a gray plastic tub strewn atop a plethora of other items that don’t belong there.

Like a pair of battered sunglasses. Or an empty and perfectly fine denim purse. Or the “Death by Stereo” album somebody burned onto a blank CD.

This tub plus a filing cabinet below Wayne Street is part of the main library’s lost and found, an eclectic world of people’s absentmindedness that pile up on a monthly basis and goes largely unseen to the rest of the universe.

And if you stick around long enough, you’ll see some of the truly bizarre and weird end up at the bottom of the library’s book drops that makes the current crop of items seem positively benign.

“Once,” says Cheryl Ferverda, the community relations manager at the library, “we had a dehydrated deer leg.”

Wait. What?

Yep. One dehydrated deer leg.

And that’s not all.

Library staff have found an artificial human leg before.

They’ve fished out a false eye from the book drop, a bank deposit bag with money, numerous cellphones, fine jewelry, family photos and various clothing.

They even once found a partial bridge for someone’s teeth.

“The dehydrated deer leg, it was large enough that our security manager thought someone was probably using it as a cane,” Ferverda says. “It wasn’t ever claimed.”

So, how does this stuff get into those book drops?

Ferverda doesn’t think these strange items are ever left at the library as a practical joke.

Sure, some people are mean and nasty and may leave a used condom or a dirty diaper in a book drop – it does happen – but most people are just forgetful.

Usually, they will accidentally drop off books belonging to churches or school libraries, which library staff can return relatively easily.

Sometimes, cellphones, cellphone chargers or calculators find their way to the bottom of the bins.

Every once in a while, someone will return a book with a credit card being used to mark a page, or a license, or even a birth certificate or Social Security card.

In one instance, someone left tickets for an event that had yet to take place.

In another, someone left documents pertaining to a court case.

About 15 years ago, someone used two strips of cooked bacon as a book mark, according to Ferverda. A decade ago, a library staffer found $600 in cash stuffed inside a tome.

And then there’s the artificial leg.

How did someone drop that in there?

“Some of the drop boxes are pretty large,” Ferverda says. “Even the one off Wayne Street, you can stick something in it and it drops two whole floors below the library.”

Why would it be dropped there?

A question that can probably never be answered, especially since no one ever came by to claim the leg – a fate shared with many of the objects in lost and found.

When someone leaves something important like a credit card or something else with identifying information, library staff will do their best to contact that person.

Other items present a challenge.

Once a book is checked in after being returned, the staff does not have access to who had checked it out.

Ferverda said the library takes patrons’ privacy seriously and a record of someone’s account history cannot be accessed short of a court order.

So if someone leaves cash stuck in between some pages of “War and Peace,” the library cannot just punch some buttons and find out who had just returned that particular book.

Lost and found items are kept for 45 days. After that, if the item is of good quality and salable – such as a shirt or doll – it will be donated to the Salvation Army.

Anything that might carry a pathogen or bacteria – like a child’s sippy cup – will be destroyed.

Credit cards will be shredded.

Cash, though, will go into the library’s gift fund, which is where money from people who want to donate to the library typically goes.

Fine jewelry will usually be appraised and turned into cash for the gift fund, as well.

And the library staff is honest, insists Ferverda. Workers report what they find, as did the person who found $600 in cash inside a book years ago.

“That’s the mindset of this library,” she says. “We do not try to rip people off. We’re really good about it.”

The library has also been the recipient of many bicycles left on the premises.

Typically, the staff will call police, have the serial numbers to the bikes checked to make sure they’re not stolen, and if no one reclaims them they periodically are auctioned off.

Wednesday, someone’s pink Razor scooter was sitting in the lost and found area, having been left in the children’s section of the library on June 1.

So if it’s yours, it’s there.

Alongside a filing cabinet full of clothes, baby toys, sunglasses, bracelets, various books and one baby doll that does not belong to the library – all waiting for their owners to return.