Commercial Binding

While preparing serials to either be shelved or prepared for binding, I often discover or receive damaged issues from other Library employees.  These damaged issues are either repaired by our Conservation Lab staff or, if damage is deemed beyond repair, a request for a replacement issue is placed with our Serials Acquisitions unit.

There are three common types of journal repairs which can be performed in our Library Conservation Lab: fill, mend and sew.

A fill done when there is a hole or chunk missing from the issue and an alternate piece of paper is used to fill it in.


























A mend repair occurs when there is a rip or tear in the issue, but it is small and generally fixed with repair tape.











A sew repair happens when the cover or other pages are coming apart from the journal – a needle and thread is used or sometimes glue instead to alleviate this problem, so the issue can remain intact and be ready for use. 

CindyAfter spending 45 years on the ISU campus, first as an undergraduate and then as a library employee, Cindy Wahl retired June 1, 2015.  After earning a BA in Craft Design in 1974 and a BA in Art Education in 1975, Cindy started student teaching and realized that teaching might not be the career path for her.  So, in the fall of 1976, she went to the Home Economics placement office (the Art department was in Home Economics) to look at available jobs.  Carolyn Erwin was working in the placement office at the time and asked her what kind of job she wanted.  She replied, “any job that would allow her to move away from home (Anamosa).”  Carolyn said that the library was a good place to work and that she should go to the ISU placement office, which she did that day.  This was back in the day when applicants for merit positions had to take tests.  Cindy took the tests, went home, and received a phone call for a job interview at the library.  She moved into an apartment on Welch Avenue and started as a Clerk I in the Serials Department of the Library on October 18, 1976.  Within 18 months, she was promoted to a Library Assistant I and then to a Library Assistant III.  She worked at the serials Kardex and in Serials Acquisitions.  For a few months she did some basic Serials Cataloging which gave her a better understanding of records which she benefitted from in each position she held in the library.  She supervised the Kardex staff, and continued working in Serials Acquisitions when she was reclassified to a Library Assistant IV.  She spent the next 15 years in the Preservation Department working on vended services including preservation facsimiles, microfilm, digitization, mass deacidification, custom-fit boxes, and library binding, learning a lot about preservation and getting to know a plethora of vendor reps.

Cindy has been a life-long Cyclone fan since her father was a graduate of the ISU Veterinary College and her mom worked for Colonel Pride at the Memorial Union.  Her first memory of Ames was coming with her family when her dad had meetings one summer.  The family went to the Lincoln Way Café in Dog Town and shocked the waitress when 3 young Wahl children, ages 7, 4, and 3, all ordered liver and onions for lunch! Yum!

For Cindy the best part of working at the library has been the people she met and has gotten to know.  Last summer, she even had a library work friend from the 1970’s come to visit.  Over all those years, she has met and worked with so many and she enjoys keeping in touch with them.  The biggest change she witnessed were records in paper form and typewriters shifting to computers and digital records.

Now that she is retired and home from a trip to Chicago to attend her nephew’s wedding, she has stacks of books to read, including the complete library of Agatha Christie; “I need to get busy before the books become brittle.”  (The things you worry about after working in Preservation).  She has started reading one of the books from her stacks.  Her plan is to read a book and pass it on.  She also hopes to do some traveling with her sister and she has a long list of blanket weaving projects for each of her nephews and nieces; “I have more yarn than I have books.”

Thank you Cindy for all of the contributions you have made to the library over 39 years!

Written by Cindy Wahl and Suzette Schmidt of the Preservation Services unit.

Student employees are an important staffing component of the Preservation Services section of the Preservation Department at Iowa State University Library.  The unit has 3 staff employees, and with the volume of work being sent to and from the vendors, the students help make the workflow smooth and consistent.


Sorting and organizing periodicals.

Students are responsible for the filing of periodicals when they are received from our Serials Acquisitions department.  They sort and organize the issues prior to taking them to our Periodical Room or the General Collection for filing with the rest of the unbound issues.  While filing the periodicals, they also check the titles to see if there are now enough older issues on the shelf to pull and return them to staff in Preservation Services to have them prepared for binding.  In addition to pulling periodicals for binding while filing, we now have in place an electronic system where we can search, sort, and print out a list of periodicals that are now ready to be bound.  The student uses that list to organize and forward periodicals to staff for binding.


Shelving issues in the Periodical Room.

There is a continual flow of work to be delivered and retrieved to other areas of the library and students are the legs for transporting these items.  With our Preservation Department being housed on two different floors and other departments spread throughout the five floors of the library, the students are valuable in moving work from floor to floor and department to department.

Boxing volumes to be shipped.

Boxing volumes to be shipped.

Preservation Services works with a variety of vendors for binding, reformatting, and mass deacidification, which all require packing and unpacking of volumes.  Students assist with this task while staff prepare the paperwork to be included with the shipments.  At times the volumes being shipped need a page-by-page review, and the students help with this process by noting any repairs, which are then handled by staff.  Upon receipt of the finished volumes, the new format is compared to the old volume by student employees to be sure the work is accurate and complete.


Reviewing a thesis.

Some volumes being added to the collection need to have marking done to them prior to being forwarded for shelving.  These pass through the Preservation Services section where the student is responsible for stamping the volumes with the Iowa State University Library possession stamp, moving the bar code to the appropriate placement on the volume, and, if necessary, adhering the title and call number labels to the spine.

As work flows and tasks change within the Preservation Services unit, it is always important for us to review the assignments and use our students in the most productive manner.  They have shorter scheduled blocks of time, and their assistance is used best to help move the work through the unit and to help make the volumes available to patrons in a timely manner.

Written by Jim Wilcox.

The September 27th  monograph  side of the bindery shipment.

The monographs are ready to go down to the loading dock to be packed, along with one Marking truck that stays in-house.  It’s a bit of a smaller shipment than normal, with only 354 monographs going out in this one.  They are all sorted according to binding type:

  • M1, adhesive-bound  to receive Grade F Buckram covers
  • M2, sewn bindings
  • M3, Digicovers (the biggest part of the shipment, taking 2 trucks)
  • M3b, Digicovers with special instructions (mostly “Case Flush Bottom”  but  some “Bind in Loose Page”)
  • MR, items to be recased (which have been sent to Preservation from the Circulation desk)

All of the Digicovers have had the call number labels applied to the spine before going off to the bindery, along with the barcodes moved to the outside cover near the lower right. The reason for moving the barcode to the outside is that the catalogers place a piggyback barcode in the upper right corner on the inside of the back cover.

The September 6th shipment that came back from the bindery on the 27th.

The items are all unpacked from the shipping bins and sorted according to type.  They’re now waiting to be checked in to make sure everything came back and is bound correctly.  Also, location streamers and and giftplates need to be reunited with the books before going down to Circulation. Once checked in, the items will be stamped with the ISU stamps and the barcodes will be moved to the inside of the back covers, except for the Digicovers, which will need to have a duplicate barcode made to go on the inside since the original is now a permanent part of the cover.

Meanwhile, items on the Marking trucks are waiting to have the spine labels applied, the head edge stamped with “Iowa State University Library,” the inside the front cover stamped with a different ISU stamp, and the tattle tape inserted into the spine.  On the shelves behind the marking trucks, books that came too late to be included in the September 27th shipment have been sorted and are awaiting processing for the October 18th shipment.

Written by Cindy Wahl & Suzette Schmidt

The process of binding the serials at the Iowa State University Library starts with the retrieval of the issues from our collection.  This part of the process is done by a student employee trained and supervised by a Library Assistant.  Many of our serial publications are now housed in our Periodical Room by call number.

Periodical Reading Room at Parks Library

Serials in the Periodical Reading Room at Parks Library

The issues are passed on to the Library Assistant to check to make sure everything is included and put in the correct order for binding.  The issues are bundled together with regular rubber bands which we use at the request of the bindery.  The assistant also determines how many issues are bound together.  This process is determined by following past practice while also taking into account the size of the publications and the number of issues per volume.  If the thickness of the publications or the number published per volume has changed, the number bound together might change as we want to stay within the measurement of ¼” to 2”.

Multiple issues bound together to meet the 1/4″ minimum spine thickness set by the commercial bindery.

Some volumes are to be bound as they are received and are passed on to our Library Assistant directly from the Acquisitions Department.  These include volumes that are large enough to bind individually or volumes that have a high usage.

A serial volume large enough to be bound individually.

Issues which are too thin to go to our bindery, less than ¼”, are forwarded to our Conservation Lab for proper housing or rebinding as determined by our Conservator.

An item too thin to be sent to the commercial bindery.

After it has been determined which issues will be bound, the Library Assistant goes into our online catalog, ALEPH.  Here changes are made to our holdings records to show what is being sent to the bindery.  The new information is printed and tucked into the issues being bound and passed on for entry into our binding system.  Once every three weeks a truck comes from the bindery to pick up the issues which have been packed in totes and to deliver the previous shipment which has been bound.

Upon receipt of the newly bound serials, another Library Assistant is responsible for checking the volumes back into our catalog, reviewing them for any binding errors and forwarding them on to the appropriate department.