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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Repairing Library Books - No Tape PLEASE!

Books often come back to the library with some sort of damage. One of the most frequent offenders where this is concerned is the family dog. Many dogs have developed a love for literature. My dearly departed beagle favored paperback books. She never took them off of tables, but leave one on a bed or a chair and the room would soon be decorated with pages resembling fallen leaves. I knew she had this tendency, and it was my responsibility to keep the books out of her reach. There was no way to repair books she had "read."

Sometimes books just fall apart due to age or poor quality of workmanship. In the past, books were sewn together, now almost all of them are glued. Unfortunately, glue dries out and the pages start to come out.

We have several methods of repairing books with specialty tools and tapes or flexible glues. If the book is one that we know we cannot replace or we want to keep in the collection for a long period of time, we may use archival materials or send it to the bindery. The bindery does an excellent job of making a worn book look like new. Unfortunately, not all books can be rebound and there is a cost involved.

The library staff can tell the difference between a book that has damage due to wear and tear and one that has been damaged due to the carelessness of the borrower. We can usually even tell if it was the baby or the dog that chewed a book. Please, if you are returning a book that you know is damaged, don't let your embarrassment prevent you from letting the library staff know so that they can get the book repaired before it gets worse.

Most importantly, please don't attempt to repair a library book yourself! Normal household tape is meant for tasks like wrapping gifts. It won't last for a book's lifetime. It either stains, leaves a sticky residue or dries up and falls off. Sometimes it does all three. In any case, it can prevent us from performing a proper repair or sending the book to be rebound. Another home favorite, duct tape has a million uses, but book repair is not one of them! We know that those who try to repair library books mean well, but home book repairs often do more damage than good. So if a book is damaged, please bring in all the pieces and let us know so that we can take the proper steps to repair it.

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