Of course, libraries are still around today. But as they update their cataloging systems to computers and phase out books that are falling apart, some of their history – and the histories of their patrons – is lost.
Photographer Kerry Mansfield hopes to preserve these old-fashioned elements of the way libraries used to be by documenting discarded library books and handwritten checkout cards. She has photographed over 180 books for her series “Expired,” and believes that every creased page, fraying spine, and scribbled note tells a story of its own.
Here are 23 photos of old library books that will make you nostalgic.
Kerry Mansfield photographs old library books and checkout cards for her photo series “Expired.”
She got the idea for the photo series on a trip to Goodwill.
She came across an old library book with a handwritten checkout card inside and was reminded of all of the time she spent in her local library growing up.
“It was this huge rush of memories,” she told INSIDER.
“I hadn’t seen one since I was a little kid.”
Most libraries don’t use checkout cards anymore, so Mansfield had a hard time tracking them down to photograph.
“When I started looking, all I hit was walls and dead ends,” she said.
She gave up her search until a friend at her high school reunion mentioned that her son’s school library used checkout cards.
“At first it was just going to be the cards, but the books were so amazing,” she said.
“So beautifully battered.”
“It felt like they were so loved as well that it was wrong not to photograph the books.”
Now she finds most of her books on eBay.
“I’m the person that’s always bidding for the book nobody wants,” she said.
Mansfield doesn’t just photograph any old books — she looks for something special about them.
She’s photographed 180 books so far, and estimates she’ll reach 200 by the end of the year.
She keeps the books after she photographs them in a catalogued library of sorts of her own.
“I am the home for wayward library books,” she said.
Mansfield is sure that libraries aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but says that for many, checking out physical books is “becoming a lost experience.”
“If you download a book, you don’t have a sense of connectedness of anyone else that’s reading that book or [has] touched that book or checked out that book,” she said.
Mansfield hopes her “Expired” series reminds people of their love of libraries and books, especially in their childhood.
“I hope that they get a memory, a nostalgic rush, of their time they spent in a library or checking out books,” she said.
“The idea that someone can remember writing their name on a checkout card, how it was stamped when they returned it, or that they put it through the book slot in the back of the library on Sundays because it wasn’t open…
“…whatever that one moment is that they remember that made them feel connected to a book from a library. I hope they remember that.”
See more of Kerry Mansfield’s “Expired” photo series on her website.