A typical hard cover book may need attention at one or possibly several states in its life:
- Reinforcement of the original trade binding as it comes from the publisher
- Minor mending or repair to extend the useful life of the publisher's trade binding as it circulates
- Rebinding when the trade binding becomes too worn or the sewing breaks
- Boxing, reformatting, or discarding when the paper becomes too brittle or the damage
A typical soft cover book may need attention at similar states in its life:
- Original soft cover requires reinforced Mylar binding for structural support
Rebinding a torn, unsupported soft cover book as cover is damaged through circulation
- Minor mending or repair to extend the useful life of applied hard cover binding as it circulates
- Rebinding when the adhesive binding becomes too weak and pages become detached
- Boxing, reformatting, or discarding when the paper becomes too brittle
Working Definition of "Minor Mending and Repair"
For the purposes of this manual, "minor mending and repair" is defined as those repairs that meet
any of the following criteria:
- The repair can be done by staff who have complete training in basic book repair and with
the equipment and supplies readily available
- The damaged book is needed immediately by a patron and/or is a reserve book
- The book is not brittle. If the paper is brittle, it will be sent to the Brittle Books
Coordinator to be evaluated for a wrapper, permanent protective enclosure, reformatting, or
How to Identify Books Appropriate for In-House Repair
Damaged books are identified by both library staff and patrons as
they are used. To make the decision to repair a book in-house requires
that each staff member involved in the process be familiar with and understand
the implications of treatment and/or other options available. If the over-arching
goal of preservation is access, then book repair becomes one option for providing
access to that particular book. Briefly, the other options commonly available
are a) ordering a replacement copy of the damaged book, b) sending the book out for
commercial binding, c) reformatting the book, and d) boxing the original material.
Each option has a cost, both in staff time and materials. Unfortunately,
there are no hard-and-fast rules for making these decisions. Rather, a
number of factors should be considered by the staff as they select books,
through use, for repair.
Some Questions to Ask Before Selecting a Book for Repair
- Bibliographers and Collection Managers
- Is the damaged book worth retaining?
- If the book is worth retaining is it still available in print (either new or
- If the book is available, is the cost of ordering a new book less than the cost
of repairing the original? (see attached estimated repair costs for guidelines)
- At the Circulation Desk
- Is spine loose, torn, or detached?
- Is classification label secure and legible?
- Is the case, or are individual boards, loose or detached?
- If boxed, check condition of box (case, portfolio, etc.) and its contents.
- Are there loose or damaged pages?
- Are there loose or damaged plates or maps?
- Is paper badly embrittled (i.e. will not withstand three double corner folds)?
- Is paper moldy (i.e. limp with dark colored surface spotting)?
- Is there evidence of insect infestation (i.e. small live insects, insect eggs, or
In the case of questions b and c regarding paper, the book should be immediately placed in a
plastic bag and twist-sealed with a rubber band and, if possible, taken directly to the
- In Conservation and Book Repair
- Is the book needed immediately by a patron?
- Is the book brittle?
- Is the repair simple?
- Does the staff have the time, training, and supplies needed to complete this repair?
- Does the damage warrant sending the book directly to the commercial binder for rebinding?
Darthmouth College Preservation Services
Cornell University Preservation Department