The Grinch-Conservator

I’m going to grinch about your holiday decorating. Pinterest is awash in images of “Christmas trees” made from stacked-up books. Fine. If they’re your own books, and you understand that you are causing both short-term and long-term damage to them, then fine — go for it. They’re your books. You can do what you want with them (although I would still advise against it).

The worst offender: expect warped spines, warped pages, tears, and pages popping loose from adhesive bindings.

However, if you are a library professional, and you are using library materials to build a book tree as a display in your library, then I am calling you out.  There are a million and one ways to decorate and share your festive holiday spirit (have you looked at Pinterest lately?!) without sending your patrons the wrong message. “But we chose general collections, circulating materials!” you say. “We used that serial journal that no one ever even looks at!” you might add.  It doesn’t matter.  You’re showing everyone who walks into your library that it is o.k. not to handle borrowed library materials respectfully, because you as a library are not treating them respectfully.  You’re putting a strain on the bindings, and exposing them to acute light damage, dust and debris.  So, why shouldn’t your patrons fill those books with highlighter and pencil marks, use them as coasters, prop open their doors with them?

At least this tree isn’t draped with string lights. However, the staggered stacking and weight distribution is still likely to warp the book boards.

Fellow book conservators and preservation professionals, we still have work to be done.  Then maybe my heart would grow three sizes, too.


  1. Thank you for saying that out loud! We had one last year (a serial set destined for off site storage, as if that matters) and many of us protested to no avail. People even taped decorations to them. I made a little sign in protest and put it near the “tree,” only to have it removed. Damage be damned, it’s Christmas!

    In addition, if you are a library and you have a preservation and/or conservation department, this sort of “decorating” just sends a message that their work doesn’t matter. It is utterly demoralizing to your colleagues.

  2. That is a great point about demoralizing your colleagues, Beth. It’s already a struggle to make visible the importance of the work we do, so this sort of thing really does send *us* the message that we and our role in the library don’t matter.

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