Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Book Doctors

Has a library book ever fallen apart in your hands? Or have you ever found an unpleasant surprise stuck between some pages? Recently, the Goodson Law Library was visited by Beth Doyle of the Preservation Department at Perkins Library, which repairs damaged library materials and helps to prevent future damage by educating staff and users about the proper handling of materials. Beth’s presentation to our staff was a valuable reminder of three simple things everyone can do to help maintain the Law Library’s excellent collection for many years to come.

First, food and drink should stay far away from library materials. Of course, the Goodson Law Library’s official policy prohibits any food as well as drinks in uncovered containers, but our trash cans tell a different story. For a cautionary tale on why food and books don’t mix, check out the Preservation Department’s infamous Banana Book (click to enlarge). The unexpected enclosure is now permanently fused into the pages of this thesis on marriage and the family (you can see a portion of the stem protruding from the center of the page), along with irreparable mold damage.

Second, resist the temptation to yank a book off the shelf by pulling on the top of its spine. Over time, this will cause the pages of the book to pull away from the binding, and eventually will result in lost pages. Instead, Beth recommends pushing the two adjacent books inward, and retrieving the book in the middle by gripping its center. (see illustration)

Finally, be sure to report any damaged materials to the library staff, so that items may be sent to our Technical Services department for repair or possible replacement. Signs of trouble include: spots of mold or mildew on book covers; missing, loose, or torn pages; and broken or weak binding (where the pages are falling away from the spine).

If you’d like to learn more about fixing up your own personal library, check out Dartmouth College’s free Book Repair Manual, which offers MacGyver-esque tricks for drying wet books, tightening book spines, and re-assembling torn pages.