Finding treasures in secondhand books and returning them to their owners

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Emma Smreker has an unusual hobby of buying secondhand books, finding treasures in them and returning those back to their owners. Usually someone would buy a book to read the literature written in it but Smreker looks for something else, she hunts for pictures and other miscellaneous treasures in those.

Her aim is to uncover the forgotten treasures that may be nestled between the tattered pages of used paperbacks. “It is like a scavenger hunt,” says the 30 year-old woman who lives in Oklahoma city.

In her endeavours she has come across items such as plane tickets, receipts, dried flowers, business cards, newspaper clippings, recipes, coupons and other miscellaneous items used as bookmarks. Occasionally she has unearthed some misplaced gems such as photographs that tell a story, a poignant poem, or a letter that never got sent.

“I have a fascination for old things as you feel that you’re holding a time capsule. Although you don’t know who these people are, finding their things brings you closer to the person who once possessed the book before you,” said Smreker.

Recently she unearthed a father-daughter duo whose picture she came across in a book titled “We Don’t Die: George Anderson’s Conversations with the Other Side”.  Smreker was determined to find out the people in the picture and posted the picture in Reddit, Facebook, Instagram and every other social media platform that she could think of.

She even approached local news stations, asking if they would consider covering her search and put a call out to the community to see whether anyone knew the dad and daughter. KOCO-TV aired the story on July 16. Eventually she received a message on Instagram from the wife of the man and mother of the little girl. When the picture was taken, the little girl, Sofia Meagher, was four, and her father, Tom Meagher, was 44.

They lived in Oklahoma at the time but moved to San Antonio a few years ago. “I would never have imagined something like this happening to us,” Sofia Meagher, the little girl in the picture who is now 17, says. “It brought back so many memories from when I was younger.”

She once found a 127 year old unpublished handwritten letter in a book of poetry. The letter was addressed to the Lancaster Gazette, a newspaper in Lancaster, Ohio and contained a poem called “Spring, Goodbye” signed by Ed Ruffner. Smreker searched ancestry websites and located Ruffner’s descendants. “I learned from his family that he was actually quite a prolific poet and had published things in the paper before. I assumed that the poem did not make it to the newspaper he intended to send it to, and I was hoping to finish the journey for him,” said Smreker.

She recently found a picture of two little girls – who appeared to be sisters – cushioned in the pages of When Madeline Was Young at a used bookstore in Arkansas. The image happened to have a name on the back, and after a quick Google search, she found one sister on Facebook and connected with her. Smreker concludes by telling her search for secondhand souvenirs has taught her to appreciate the little things in life.

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