In a white plastic box labeled “United States Postal Service,” a dark blue winter jacket and a notebook sit, waiting to be claimed. This is the lost and found box in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL), where library staff collect items that are forgotten by their owners. Once found, the items are placed in the bin for students to retrieve them.
Emily Goss, Access Services Librarian at the OWHL, takes care of the lost and found items. According to Goss, a variety of items can be found in the lost and found bin, including chargers, calculators, and AirPods. If items are found with student names on them, the librarians will contact the student in order to return their belongings. However, in most cases the items are unlabeled. Unlabeled items kept in the box and later transferred to the Dean of Students Office.
“Unfortunately, the majority of the items we received don’t have names or any way to know who they belong to. In those cases, we keep the items for a few days, maybe a week (depending on when it is found). About once a week, one of our work duty students brings all the items in both our Lost & Founds to the Dean of Students Office. Once the items go to the Dean of Students Office, they become part of the school’s general Lost & Found,” wrote Goss in an email to The Phillipian.
At the Dean of Students Office, located in George Washington Hall, more lost items fill the clear plastic bins shelved in the storage closet. The shelves are lined with water bottles, clothes, and other forgotten items from around campus.
According to Claudia Scofield, Manager of Information Services for the Dean of Students, the office organizes the items and informs the entire school about the lost and found at the end of the school year. If items are left unclaimed, they are donated by the year’s end.
“About two weeks before the end of school, we email all the students. We let them know to come look in the lost and found, come look through the items, see what you can find. We try to take all of the items that can be hung up and put them on the racks so it’s easier for kids to look at them. And adults, because sometimes adults lose items too. And if after the end of those two weeks, nothing—things aren’t claimed then we donate them,” said Scofield.
However, the office doesn’t donate all unclaimed items. The more valuable items are saved and the office tries to contact students again the following year to return their belongings.
“If we come across an item that has a name on it or if we come across a very valuable item, we do not donate those items. We try, again, [to] track down the student. We’ll hold the item to the fall if they’re a returning student. And usually we have two separate piles, a pile over there by Ms. Heintz and Ms. Shahbazian is more expensive things. Cell phones, jewelry, AirPods, wallets, that stuff we don’t get rid of. Usually 99.9 percent of the stuff that we give away are old clothes,” said Scofield.
Though the Dean of Students Office holds the majority of lost and found items on campus, each individual building keeps lost belongings until a work duty student collects them and brings them to the larger lost and found. Therefore, Scofield recommended that students look first in the locations where they initially lost their belongings.
“Lost and found can be pretty much anywhere on campus… students often think that everything gets here right away, but it doesn’t always. If you lost something in the gym, you should go to the gym office and if you lost something in Gelb, you should go to the Gelb office. Check those areas first and then come here and check,” said Scofield.
In addition to the more common lost and found items, Scofield has encountered some interesting finds during her years at the Dean of Students Office. One of the most unusual objects that she has found was an old blue card reader.
“The most gratifying item I ever found was an old blue card reader… There used to be these old readers and a student group lost it in January. [They] had no idea where it was. When we cleaned out the lost and found in early June, there was this heavy bag and that was what was in there,” said Scofield.
Goss shared some words of advice for students to better keep track of all of their belongings. She encouraged students to put their names on their items, so if they are lost, they can be easily returned to their owner.
Goss wrote, “The best improvement I can think of is for students (or really anyone on campus) to label as many of their items as they can with at least their full name. Putting your initials on an item may seem like a good idea, but when we find something, or another student turns something in that only has initials, there’s nothing proactive we can do.”