Amidst shelves of books and bins of candy are nearly 700 rubber ducks that call the BYU Bookstore home.
No two birds are exactly the same. The collection was started three years ago and is displayed on the General Book Information Desk in the bookstore.
Pouring out of their makeshift shelves and crowding a miniature Christmas tree, the ducks come from as far away as Australia and the Czech Republic, and within the squeaky crowd are the faces of Elvis, Mozart and President Obama.
The menagerie started with a single duck that was brought to the store as a book promotion. It stood alone for two years until a second duck was added, and since then the collection has grown exponentially.
Don Fossum, a bookstore employee known as “The Don,” started the collection. A sign that reads “Donald’s Ducks” sits above both his work space and the collection.
“It’s a rare week when someone doesn’t bring one in,” Fossum said.
He has only added about 18 ducks himself; the rest were added by friends and strangers who have seen the collection.
“Sometimes they sneak them in, and sometimes it’s a fanfare,” Fossum said.
If there is ever a duplicate, Fossum removes it from the group.
Clarissa Ashby, a Spanish major from Valdasta, Ga., used to have a collection of her own and is impressed by the bookstore’s assemblage.
“I like the variety and how every time I walk past it, I see one that I’ve never seen before,” Ashby said.
The flock has become a landmark location for campus visitors. Fossum said it has been included in a family reunion scavenger hunt, and EFY participants recently made a stop-motion film with the rubber toys.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has even made a visit to the squeaky attraction. Adam Hoynacki, a neuroscience major from Carlsbad, Calif., was working at the desk at the time and said President Uchtdorf’s comment was, “How fun!”
Fossum added that President Uchtdorf searched for the pilot ducks.
The collection is known to create disagreements among participants at Women’s Conference.
“It tends to be that women have this organizational issue with them,” Hoynacki said. “They try to put them in groups or something and then someone else will come along, not like the groups, so they redo them.”
Two basketball-sized ducks on the top shelf had a rough time making their way to the collection. One was brought by airplane by a friend and caused serious confusion among the TSA staff.
“They scanned it so many times she thought it would melt,” Fossum said.
The other duck was found in a river and took three weeks to drain before it was dry enough for the collection.
Between the display is a small collection of signs that say, “The ducks are not for sale!” Regardless, Fossum says questions about their availability are asked often.
Fossum never intended to start a collection, but he is now considering removing one of the Information Desk’s computers to make room for the incoming ducks.
“It’s a great example of a spontaneous generation,” Fossum said.