Libraries Society of North America 31st Annual Conference
Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland - March 20-26, 2003
Books Fall Apart and What You Can Do About It
Emily Connell, Baltimore Museum of Art
Loew, General Collections Conservator, Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins
Martha Edgerton, Chief Rare Book Conservator, Johns Hopkins University
Emily Connell, Baltimore Museum of Art
Loew began the workshop by explaining how to sort damaged materials for either
in-house repair or contracting out to a professional conservator or commercial
bindery. Things that can be done in
house include hinge tightening and tip-ins.
Mr. Loew stressed that it is helpful to think creatively when sorting.
An example of this he mentioned is to consider getting replacements for
damaged books rather than repairing them.
brittle paper is a subject beyond the scope of the workshop, Mr. Loew emphasized
that it is important to watch out for it. In order to determine if a book has brittle paper, a fold
test should be performed. He
demonstrated the test by folding a corner of a page in a couple of centimeters
and folding it the other direction and back and forth again for a total of four
folds. If the corner breaks off
within four folds, the paper is brittle.
response to a question about what a commercial binder will do to a book, Mr.
Loew stated that the binder would take the cover off the book, reglue the spine,
replace the cover, and add a title to the cover.
Commercial binderies can be used to recase books or to simply reinforce
signatures that may be loose. They
can also restitch the spine of the book.
contemplating using the services of a professional conservator, it can be
helpful to create a list of criteria. For
example, you might want to send all special collections materials to a
conservator. You could also use a
cut-off date such as all books prior to 1850 or 1800. These decisions should not be fast and hard.
If there are any questions about whether the damage is repairable
in-house, the item should be taken to a specialist.
of the decisions about whether to use a commercial binder, a professional
conservator or just repair in-house depend on how much use an item will receive.
You will want to get as much information as possible about how an item is
used before you make these decisions. Another
important consideration Mr. Loew mentioned is how sorting will be organized in
your library. The circulation desk
staff, stacks maintenance staff, or others can be responsible for identifying
what needs to be repaired.
Loew then discussed heat-set mending tissue and demonstrated its use on a torn
page of a book. He recommended
Filmoplast-R as an acceptable type of tissue to use. This tissue is made up of a lens-tissue paper with an
alkaline buffer and an adhesive. It
is used to repair tears in paper and can also be used to in-fill losses.
It is particularly useful for coated or “glossy” paper which
doesn’t take moisture well and will wrinkle.
Another important characteristic of heat-set mending tissue is that it is
translucent and text can be read through it.
repair an item with heat-set mending tissue, a bone folder should first be used
to flatten out the paper you want to repair.
Then, cut the tissue so that it is wider than what you need.
Any excess can be trimmed off with scissors or a straightedge after it is
attached. Put silicone paper
between the tissue and the iron and rub the iron over for several seconds.
Both sides of the paper should be mended with the tissue.
Mr. Loew noted that when working with brittle paper, you don’t want to
create too much rigidity; therefore strips of tissue should be staggered.
This will avoid a “breaking edge.”
Edgerton talked about the horrors of pressure sensitive tapes.
These types of tape were invented by 3M in the 1930’s and were at first
thought to be a “miracle cure” for damaged books and torn paper.
They are now known to be extremely damaging.
Because of the time and effort involved in completely removing pressure
sensitive tape, not much can be done for general collections materials with tape
damage. Ms. Edgerton suggested that
he best thing to do for such material is to simply photocopy the damaged page
and tip in the photocopy.
“document tapes” may sound safe and can, in some cases, be used on general
collections materials, but they should never be used on special collections
materials. One of the major
problems with such tapes is that they take more effort to reverse than heat-set
tissue. Almost all of the tapes
produced now have some kind of “archival” statement on the packaging.
However, all will yellow in time, particularly when used on glossy paper.
Ms. Edgerton passed around numerous examples of the products as well as a
sheet of paper with various types of tape affixed to it that demonstrated the
tapes’ effects on different types of inks.
Although Mr. Loew recommended Filmoplast-R as a heat-set mending tissue,
Ms. Edgerton did not advocate using the brand’s document tape.
She suggested that if there are any questions regarding specific
products, the website, Conservation Online (CoOL) [http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/]
is a helpful source.
Loew then showed the workshop’s participants how to tip-in pages that have
come loose from library materials. Tip-ins
can be done on both sewn bindings and adhesive bindings, but it is important to
determine which type of binding a book has before beginning, as this will effect
how the tip-in is done. It is
also important to check for brittle paper or special collections status; these
methods are not recommended for such materials.
sewn bindings, the first step is to glue the edge of the paper using a brush.
Then, tip the page into the book and let it dry (about ten minutes).
Check your work when you are done to make sure the page is completely
attached. Mr. Loew noted that
natural bristle brushes hold glue better, but they are harder to clean than
synthetic. He used PVA as the glue,
but stated that J403 and methyl cellulose could also be used.
For adhesive bindings, the above method should not be used, as pages will
tear out. Instead, brush glue into
the gutter with a small brush, not more than 2-3 millimeters on each side of the
gutter, and insert the page.
Loew was asked how many pages could be tipped in at once.
He responded that he usually does 6 leaves at a time, but that it depends
on the thickness of the paper. If
you want to tip-in several pages, you would fan out the pages and glue them all
at once and then glue them into the book. Mr.
Loew also noted that if too many pages are coming out, rebinding is a better
option, as it is more cost effective.
Edgerton showed the participants how to create a pocket for ephemeral materials.
She stated that pockets are a cheap and quick option for holding loose
items such as maps and CDs. However,
theft or losses are drawbacks that should be taken into consideration.
The pocket can be attached to the book using double-sided tape.
Ms. Edgerton commented that double-sided tape is a good 3M product,
unlike pressure-sensitive tape. In
order to create the pocket, first shape the pocket to the size you want.
Then tape it in place and use a bone folder to make sure it is securely
attached to the book.
Edgerton was asked if there are problems with the adhesive from the double-sided
tape migrating into the book. She
stated that it will not migrate, but in a bad environment it is possible that it
could disintegrate. Glue could be
used instead, but it takes longer and could warp the pocket or the book itself
from the moisture.
Loew completed the demonstration portion of the workshop by explaining how to
tighten the hinges of books. This
is an easy repair that is done when the binding is intact, but the hinges have
become loose. However, this
procedure is not recommended for special collections materials or leather
bindings. A knitting needle and PVA
are used to accomplish the tightening. Mr.
Loew suggested that it is also a good idea to have a paper towel handy when
tightening hinges. The PVA should
be diluted and placed in a tall container.
To begin, insert the needle covered in a light amount of glue half way
into the hinge of the book and spin it around.
It is important not to get glue on the spine; it should be confined to a
small area within the hinges. Turn
the book over to do the other side. If
you encounter any resistance – STOP! You
do not want to damage the book. Once
the hinges are glued, use a bone folder to “set” the joint on the outside.
Put wax paper on the inside hinges of the book and put pressure in the
joint while the glue dries.
demonstrations were followed by numerous questions from the participants.
The presenters were first asked how to handle red rot (an advanced state
of leather deterioration). At Johns
Hopkins, the problem is handled by either putting the affected material in boxes
or shrink-wrapping it. Consolidating
the leather is also a possibility, but it is controversial as the process is not
reversible. It is also worth
considering that by the time most books reach the stage of red rot there are
other problems with them.
Loew and Ms. Edgerton were then asked about foxing. They responded that the best thing to do is to leave it alone
as it is not contagious and even if you get rid of it, it can still come back.
Foxing occurs because of impurities in the paper, i.e. rust.
It occurs most commonly in paper from the early 19th to the
early 20th centuries. Books
from other countries may also still use methods to make paper that cause foxing.
participant asked how to handle moldy books.
The presenters stated that the affected materials should be allowed to
dry out and then be sterilized if necessary.
They can be vacuumed with a HEPA vacuum as well.
If you smell something that seems moldy, check to see if it is okay.
It is possible to confuse “old book smell” with the smell of mold.
On a related note, they mentioned that if clay-coated papers get wet,
immediate intervention is necessary. They can be kept wet, interleaved with wax paper or frozen to
prevent further damage before a conservator can treat them.
presenters also mentioned post-it notes and other foreign materials in books as
a major problem faced by conservators. They
stated that Post-it notes can remove the print and leave adhesive residue when
they are removed. It is important
to remove any such materials as soon as possible.
Licking and turning pages is also problematic as it can transfer
question was asked about “library tape” on bindings and what can be done
about it. The presenters stated
that damage could occur if it is taken off; therefore it is best to leave the
tape on the book unless you have training in its removal or you have a
conservator to do it for you. You
need to know the makeup of the specific adhesive used by the tape’s
manufacturer before you can do anything to remove it.
participant inquired about what types of spine labels should be used.
The presenters noted that there are several options: labels can be typed
out on paper and then attached to the book using Krylon fixative, and labels can
also be printed directly on book cloth with a laser printer.
question was asked about what should be done in institutions that don’t think
money should be spent on preservation. The
presenters replied that paper collections are actually used more
in the digital age, just in different ways; collections now seem to receive more
in-library use. One way to promote
preservation is to educate staff about how important paper is and to make
preservation a core function of the library.
Loew and Ms. Edgerton ended the workshop by mentioning other book-repair
training opportunities including a series that Johns Hopkins is considering for
the next year. They also suggested
that participants check with regional consortia like SOLINET and the CoOL
website under “education” for other opportunities.