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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Mending books in the library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 18, 2009

40 years ago, I was asked to volunteer in my school library mending books.

 

I knew the librarian and she asked if I would use my Study Hall time to volunteer in the high school library.

 

I assumed that I would shelve books, straighten up things, and perhaps work at the desk checking out books.

 

Instead, the librarian escorted me to a small room behind the work area, where I was seated at a sturdy table, and asked if I could “mend” the books.

 

Surrounding the table were over 1,000 books all needing some sort of patching, mending, and repair.

 

Ragged spines drooped from some books, frayed edges protruded, and ripped and dirty covers were everywhere.

 

Large bottles of glue, rolls of tape, and Mylar book jacket covers were stacked on a second table, ready to be used on this mess of books.

 

I explained that I had no knowledge of book repair, but the librarian handed me a 20 page booklet titled, “How to repair books.”

 

She gave me some tape and a few books that were being thrown away, and politely said, “Here, practice on these.”

 

My early practice in book repair gave me the advantage, because in Library School in college I won a pair of scissors for doing the best job mending a book.

 

Book mending probably isn’t even taught in Library School anymore.

 

With the recent staff reductions, and budget cuts, I am mending books again.

 

It is like riding a bicycle -- you never forget how to do it.

 

The goal is to make the repaired book as good as when it was brand new.

 

Most books needing mended have experienced at least 20 checkouts and are simply worn from usage.

 

Others have stories they could tell.

 

Animals love to chew on books, attracted to the glue in the spines, or the corners of the cover.

 

If the text block of the book is still intact, it is possible to repair the exterior by borrowing parts from other books and blending them together.

 

I am amazed that people try to repair the books they damage with an assortment of duct tape, packaging tape, and band aids.

 

Often it takes more time to carefully remove the well-meaning person’s repair, than it does to actually mend the book.

 

It takes a steady hand with a glue bottle to “tip” a page back into the binding, or reattach the binding to the cover.

 

Books need special glue that remains flexible after it dries, otherwise you can’t open the book once the incorrect glue dries.

 

The electric eraser is needed to remove telephone numbers hurriedly written in a library book.  Don’t people have a pad of paper?

 

Each year, the library system uses 20 gallons of glue, 3,000 book jackets, and 30 rolls of library book tape to repair our collection.

 

We have to make our books last longer these days, and I am glad to have those talents from days-gone-by still at hand.