Unusual Damage


We’ve all seen them.  Books returned to the library have been tasty treats for cats, dogs, rodents, and even rabbits.  The World of Wolves came into my hands with two corners chewed on by a dog.  You can usually tell a book has been chewed by an animal by the stiffness in the pages from the saliva, and the size of the tooth marks suggests what kind of animal.  This book needed both damaged corners replaced with new binder’s board and book cloth to closely match the original cover.  Luckily, the text block was barely chewed so no work was required there.


I first removed the damaged end sheet and carefully peeled back the paper cover enough so I could get good access to the corners to remove the damaged board.  I cut small pieces of binder’s board to match the thickness of the original board and peeled back layers on each corner, so I could stagger the layers and glue the two new corners on.  Next, I cleaned up the existing cover and cut away chewed parts.  I then glued on the new book cloth, which I think matches pretty well.  I pressed the corners well for a good, tight fit and then added a new end sheet and ISU property stamp label.  I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this book.


Today I received another big book in the Preservation Lab for repair that has split apart in the back, so that the case is detaching from the textblock.  Its treatment will be a recase, with textile hinges to reinforce the case-to-textblock attachment.  I see this kind of damage all too often in large books.  Publishers put everything they can into one large book instead of breaking the content down into two books of a more manageable size.  Thin, cheap, or slick paper, bulky size, too much weight, and too many pages all add to the structure of the book failing.

Hinge splitting at the back of the book.

Hinge splitting at the back of the book.

Next is a post-bound book that one of our student workers, Hannah Isabell, is going to be working on.  She will dismantle it and put sections into custom portfolios for easier use and shelving.  As you can see, this book measures a whopping 8.25”!

Post-bound book too large to use safely or easily.

Post-bound book too large to use safely or easily.

Our next example is Veterinary Medicine: A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Pigs, and Goats by Radostits, Gay, Hinchcliff, and Constable.


This book measures 3.5” thick and suffers from a typical split in the back of the book and wrinkled pages in both the front and back.


Veterinary Medicine: A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Pigs, and Goats by Radostits, Gay, Hinchcliff, and Constable.

Over 2100 pages of excellent veterinary information drew my eye and my hands to repair this book.  This book is so big that it must be sitting on my desk and not in my hands to look at, and would be much easier to use had it been made into two volumes.  The content could have been split up by species, such as cattle and horses in volume one, and sheep, pigs, and goats in volume two.

Veterinary Medicine: A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Pigs, and Goats by Radostits, Gay, Hinchcliff, and Constable.

Veterinary Medicine: A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Pigs, and Goats by Radostits, Gay, Hinchcliff, and Constable.

While we understand that publishers are trying to save on costs by cramming all of the information into a single volume, it actually ends up costing us more, because we have to spend time and resources repairing these volumes after they have circulated just once, if they even make it that far.

1091MapOne of the most rewarding aspects of working in an academic library is the potential for being exposed to all sorts of new and interesting materials which we might not have sought out deliberately on our own.  However, this can also be one of the drawbacks.  For this month’s 1091 Project, Preservation Assistant Mindy McCoy discusses one aspect of her job that she had never anticipated when she started working in the Preservation Department.

Hunched close to my computer, I click, click, click, making sure images are straight, and that the images will print out just right.  I peek out over the top of my computer, which faces a window looking out into our lab – oh shoot, somebody’s coming!  Quick, click to a different screen!  Phew, that was close!  Sometimes I don’t see a co-worker coming into the office, and I am caught red-handed.  I usually confess before the person has a chance to ask what in the world I am looking at.


Yes, it’s true.  Unfortunately we see plenty of damaged books that have missing pages or images cut out of them.  Many of these missing images are of naked body parts, or scantily clad people in provocative poses – you get the idea, no need for more detail. There is always a big groan in the office when these books with missing images arrive, and also teasing comments between me and my officemate: “I have another good one for you!” One of my duties as Preservation Assistant is to track down replacements for these missing images. I request another copy of the damaged book (we have the option to request scanned pages – but there’s no need for everyone to know what I am working on!) through our interlibrary loan system, so I can scan the images and print out new pages to be tipped back into our copy of the book.

Image from: /Visual thinking: methods for making images memorable/ by Henry Wolf (New York: American Showcase, 1988).  Note: "Censored" banner added by preservation staff for posting on this blog.

Image from: /Visual thinking: methods for making images memorable/ by Henry Wolf (New York: American Showcase, 1988). Note: “Censored” banner added by preservation staff for posting on this blog.

At first, I was kind of embarrassed to be working on these materials, but as time went on, I just realized these books (and the people that take from them) aren’t going away.  These materials are a part of our collection, and need to be preserved just like everything else.  It’s not as embarrassing as it was at first, although I have learned that it’s always nice to have other items (such as the budget, supply orders, or a news website) just a click away in case I do happen to get interrupted.

Don’t forget to visit Preservation Underground to find out what “plain brown paper wrapper” materials Beth Doyle is working on in the Conservation Lab of Duke University Libraries.

Written by Hope Mitchell, Student Technician in the Conservation Lab


As a student technician, one of the things I enjoy the most about my job is the variety; every day has the potential to be completely different from the last and teach me something new and unexpected about conservation. Recently, I was given a book of paint chips titled Color and Color Names, by Gladys and Gustave Plochere, from our General Collection. Published in 1946, Color and Color Names contains 1,536 different color samples. My mission seemed simple: flip through the book and glue down any loose paint chips. What began as a simple task soon turned into nearly a week of poking and prodding over 1,500 paint chips with a microspatula.

Everything was going according to plan until I reached the purple section, where I noticed that the color had begun flaking off the chips. Initially, I tried swiping some PVA over the chip; while that held the flaking paint in place and didn’t compromise the color, it gave the chip a glossy look that didn’t match with the other matte chips.  Realizing that I was in over my head, I asked our conservator, Melissa, what I should do. She suggested that I test a small corner of the paint chip with the consolidant Klucel-G. Ideally, this would help to seal the paint, but there was also a chance that the Klucel-G would shift the color. Sure enough, it did, so we moved on to plan B…


After testing with Klucel-G (lower right corner) and methylcellulose (upper left corner).

Plan B consisted of using water-based methylcellulose instead of solvent-based Klucel-G. Once again, I brushed a small amount of methylcellulose on the corner of the paint chip to determine whether or not it would shift the color. We decided that it would be best to test the methylcellulose on a different corner of the same chip that we had used to test the Klucel-G, our logic being that it was probably best not to risk distorting another chip.  Also, testing on the same color gave us a truer comparison between the effects of the Klucel-G and methylcellulose.   In the end, the methylcellulose was a success! It stabilized the flaking paint without compromising the color, and without making the matte paint chip glossy.


During and After: wet methylcellulose just applied to the paint chip (left); the paint chip after the methylcellulose had dried (right).

What do the four titles Marketing Research; Drinking Water; Herbs, Health and Cookery; and Tigers in the Emerald Forest all have in common?  These are four newly-purchased books coming to the Preservation Department this week for repair.  Two need minor mending repairs and the other two books will need to be recased entirely, as they have major damage.  The worst is Marketing Research — apparently there was no quality control at the publisher’s!  The last four pages had significant damage.  The picture below speaks for itself.

Marketing Research

Marketing Research

It is often too costly for the Library to send books back to the publisher for replacement, so instead they are sent to the Preservation Department for repair.   This used to be a rare occurrence but is now a much more common happening each month.   It is disheartening to see a new book damaged before a student has a chance to crack it open for the first time.  Many bindings such as Herbs, Health, and Cookery fail because of cheap glue and poor construction, which does not hold up to the processing of the book when received at the Library.  All I can say is that when I repair Herbs, Health, and Cookery, it won’t be falling apart later!

Herbs, Health, and Cookery

Herbs, Health, and Cookery

« Previous PageNext Page »