DIY Book Repair And Its Consequences

DIY Book Repair
DIY Book Repair

This DIY book repair came to the lab recently and Mary thought it would make a good blog entry. Her caption for the image was, “I could have done a better job but I ran out of tape.” We sometimes have to laugh at some of the things we see, but herein also lies a teachable moment.

I tend to believe that most people feel bad when a library book breaks in their hands. They respond by trying to fix it, usually with some sort of pressure sensitive tape. It only takes them a few seconds and it keeps all the parts together.

What our patrons likely do not realize is how time consuming tape removal can be. When I write treatment proposals for projects that involve removing tape and adhesive stains, I generally estimate an hour of labor per inch of tape. Sometimes you get lucky and the carrier pops right off and the residual adhesive and staining is easily removed with a mild solvent. More often the carrier and adhesive comes off and takes the paper, cloth or leather it is attached to with it. This results in even more damage that will need to be repaired, and any remaining adhesive will need to be painstakingly removed either mechanically or chemically.

I’ll talk about how we determine treatment strategies for items like these in a future post. Until that time, if you find that a book falls apart when you use it, please carefully wrap all the pieces in a plastic bag (such as one of our rainy-day bags) and bring it back to the circulation desk. They will send it to conservation for mending.

7 thoughts on “DIY Book Repair And Its Consequences”

  1. Frankly, I had no idea that putting a tape in order to repair a library book can cause so many efforts to be replaced afterwards but I still can’t think of any better way to continue to use a book which is literally falling into pieces in my hands.

    1. Welcome to my world! Tape is about the last thing you want to put on a book if you value it.

  2. Really! I put up sensible post adressing a real issue about tape removal. Why did you have it removed? What did I do wrong? Did I offend someone? If you have this post removed as well, please send me an email and let me know why.

    In my previous post I asked if there is a way of removing 50 year old tape from a book. It’s a brown clothlike tape. The adhesive has become hard and stuck to the paper. Heat doesn’t soften it, and it is not dissolved with white spirit or chemically clean petrol. Is there some other solvent that can be used?

    1. It is impossible and unethical to determine a course of treatment for an object via a blog. Tape removal can be very tricky and its success depends on a lot of things including the type of adhesive and carrier that is present, the substrate and its condition, and the type and condition of any media that is affected. There are a variety of mechanical methods in addition to solvents that might be effective, but without seeing the object and evaluating is properly, it is impossible to recommend any particular action.

      The best advice I can give you is to contact a professional conservator to have your object evaluated. The American Institute for Conservation has some excellent resources on their website on finding and working with conservators. Good luck!

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