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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Life of a Library Book: The Damage is Done. Or is it?

Don't worry, this isn't a library book!
Posted by Alana T.

Either through normal wear and tear or accidents, occasionally books return to us damaged.  Books can have a variety of problems, but the most common are broken bindings, torn pages, water damage due to spills, and pages that have come out.  The good news is that we can repair many of these problems.  However, the issue is complicated by the fact that we only repair our own books (those owned by the Edwardsville PL) and that each library within the LCLS has its own policies for damage, repair, and fines. 

An attempted home repair - bad news for the book.
Sometimes, patrons receive a damaged book or something happens while the item is checked out to them.  The patron may try to be helpful and repair the book themselves.  Sadly, this is not the best option.  Once tape has been applied to a book, it can't be removed without further damage.  Taping a binding is not a strong repair and the book will continue to fall apart.  Packing or other clear tapes you may have at home are not meant for long-term use and discolor, become brittle, or cause acid damage to the pages.  Usually, these home repaired books must be withdrawn.

Sometimes a well meaning patron will use duct tape on a book; this can not be removed.  In the example above, the home repair covered our informative stickers and all we could do was add one on top.  This is an unusual case; normally the book has to be withdrawn because duct tape (and the book) is so sticky.

Did the dog find this book offensive?  I guess we'll never know...
Every so often, books are returned with chew damage.  I assume that dogs are the culprits, but who knows.  If we can repair the binding, we will.  If the book is still functional, as is the one shown above, we will place it back in circulation.

Moisture damage causes many problems. I don't have any example photos because we almost always withdraw these books. The obvious problems are warped pages and bindings which can never be fixed.  The not so obvious damage is caused by mold and mildew.  Sometimes the slightest bit of water along the top of book will cause a bloom of mildew to appear within hours.  When this happens, the book must be withdrawn.  Even if there is no other damage visible, mold and mildew will spread rapidly from book to book on the shelves.

The good news is that we have the tools to repair many types of damage.  Books that have bindings hanging by threads can be repaired with new linen tape and flexible book glues  Torn pages are simple to repair - we have special acid-free, invisible tape.  Pages that have come loose are easy to "tip in" with the careful application of book glues and a steady hand.  Every week we repair and return to circulation about 20 books!

This images and descriptions above pertain to Edwardsville PL items only.  If another library's book is returned to us by a patron in a damaged state, we will return it to the owning library.  It is up to the that library to determine whether or not to charge a patron for damage.  Sometimes we receive an item from another library and it has been damaged in transit.  We make a note of this, so the next patron will not be responsible for the damage, and we may suggest returning the item to the owning library and requesting another copy of the item.

As always, if you have questions about our policies, please let us know.


  1. Wow, that bird really murdered the book. It's kind of cute though, maybe it can still be used as a decoration piece.