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Sunday, March 9, 2014

What YOU need to know about damaged library books...

Posted by Alana T.

Library books have an interesting life.  They travel more than most books, visit people, have adventures.  They are read a lot.  They see heavy use and sometimes, hard knocks.  Then, the books come back home to the library and need tender care to bring them back into useable condition.

One of my jobs here at the library is book repair.  I see all kinds of unhappy books: torn pages, split spines, damaged covers and stressed bindings.  Most of these conditions are part of the normal life of a library book, as is repair.  I use a specific set of archival tools to bring the books back to lending condition:  flexible glues and various tapes.  Every week, about 25 library books are repaired and returned to circulation.  Most repairs are undetectable and extend the useable life of book by many years. 

We appreciate it when our patrons inform us about normal wear and tear as a book ages.  Occasionally, a patron will return a book with a home repair.  The most common is a 'temporary' repair with clear Scotch-type or packing tapes.  Although we applaud the urge to be kind to library books, a home repair almost always leads to withdrawl of the book.  Why?  It may seem like a temporary repair is a good idea, but household glues and tapes leave residues on a book that can't be removed.  Our special glues won't adhere and we can't repair the book.  Home repairs are also weak repairs and usually cause additional damage.

Every once in a while, someone will return a book with a duct-tape repair.  Amazing, but true.  I guess the line of thought is that if tape is good, duct tape is better!  Actually, it's the worst.  Duct tape leaves behind a thick residue.  If we leave the duct tape on, the residue oozes out from the edges and onto other books. Last, but not least, duct tape covers the informational stickers we add to the spine.

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Moisture damage causes many problems and we don't even attempt repairs - these are withdrawn immediately.  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.  Even if there is no other damage visible, mold and mildew will spread rapidly from book to book on the shelves.

It is important to realize that if a book is damaged beyond normal expectations, it may need to be replaced, and if so, we will inform the patron.

The discussion above pertains to Edwardsville Public Library procedures and policies 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 owning 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.

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