How To Extend the Lifespan of Library Books

There was a chance the arrival of e-books would phase out print, but it just didn’t happen. The physical book simply provides a different experience, and libraries play a big role in getting these all-important stories into a reader’s hands! However, with the fantastic old book smell and pleasant page textures comes the reality that every handling makes a book further show its age. Let’s discuss how to extend the lifespan of library books, whether in a school, neighborhood, community library, or even coffee shop setting, and keep these books ready to read!

Common Causes of Damage for Library Books

By their nature, library books risk many kinds of damage through their years of borrowing. Even with nearly perfect handling, wear and tear over time leads to issues like unhealthy spines or loose pages. Here are some common causes of damage for library books that librarians might face:

  • Improper storage in a backpack or purse
  • Sticker removal leading to torn pages
  • Food and beverage spills
  • Entire page “borrowing”
  • Pets that lack respect for the written word
  • Water damage from rain or even home floods

Proper Book Handling Etiquette

One way to extend the lifespan of library books is to include a small guide on proper book handling etiquette somewhere in the library or the book itself. Often, a guide on how to care for borrowed books is placed on a library’s website, on posters, or even printed onto paper bookmarks. While these guides don’t guarantee that books will return unharmed, they do put a bug in borrowers’ ears about taking care of the piece they borrow. Some examples of proper book handling etiquette to include in your educational materials include:

  • Keep drinks and food away from books
  • Avoid carrying a book loosely in bags
  • Don’t dog-ear pages, invert the spine, or write in borrowed books
  • Remove any bookmarks or tabs before returning the book

Ideal Book Storage Conditions

Some damage that library books incur doesn’t happen while the book is in use but instead while it’s in the library. Improper storage within the library leads to damage as well. It’s important to check that all books are either upright and supported on shelves or are lying flat. Consistent temperatures and humidity within the library are also ideal for extending a book’s lifespan. A gentle dusting and regular checkups ensure that books look their best year-round.

Extending the Lifespan of Damaged Library Books

Once a book is already damaged, however, it’s time to act. Let’s explore a few ways you can extend the lifespan of damaged library books so that, even with their faults, readers can enjoy them for years to come.

Page-by-Page Care

Book pages typically face one of three problems: they are either torn, folded, or stained.

In the case of torn pages, if you don’t have the missing piece, you cannot repair a book entirely. However, if you can find the page online as a PDF or have an alternative copy for salvaging, you can remove the torn page entirely and replace it. It’s important to read the page prior and the page following to ensure the copies match and the book still reads smoothly.

Running a small amount of adhesive onto the loose page and carefully setting it in place against the spine requires some precision. Wax paper on either side is a great way to protect the other pages from glue. Once the page is in, carefully remove any excess glue and close the book.

If a page is dog-eared or folded, simply unfolding the page to its proper position, closing the book, and leaving pressure on it for some time is often enough. However, for particularly old books where there is a concern that unfolding the page might lead to it breaking, you can apply a minimal amount of moisture to a cotton swab and carefully soften both sides of the crease before attempting to unfold.

Finally, stained pages are not always fixable. Still, you can lighten the stain by gently using a kneaded eraser over marks like pencil. Paper and book cleaner products also exist to help lift stains off the page as much as possible without removing text.

Call a Spine Specialist!

While there certainly are orthopedic surgeons for books available for hire, librarians can handle most book spine issues in-house. Over time, bookbinding and broken spines lead to loosened pages and an unfortunate-looking appearance for an otherwise perfectly fine book. Bringing a book back to life in spite of broken headcaps, swinging hinges, and cracked spines is as simple as breaking out a role of book repair tape.

If the spine itself is intact but the bookbinding isn’t, causing the pages themselves to come free, non-acidic bookbinding adhesive comes in handy. Aligning pages with a clamp or two prior to adding adhesive prevents the need to sand pages down once the adhesive sets everything back into place. Once you’re ready, apply the adhesive using a foam brush to both the paper edges and the spine membrane, or in some cases, the spine itself.

Again, removing excess glue right away prevents any trouble down the road. Once the process is finished, close the book and apply pressure via a clamp (or other, heavier books on top) to keep everything in place until the book is ready for reading once again.

Stands, Jackets, and Covers, Oh My!

To protect books in a more private library, options like stands, jackets, and covers play a role in making a damaged book last longer. These accessories ensure that a book is protected from the environment around it and are great for collectibles and old favorites.

Ultimately, all librarians need to equip themselves with the right tools for any book emergency that comes their way. ChromaLabel is happy to help libraries of all sizes keep their books in the best condition, their shelves organized, and their heads on straight! We carry powerful book binding tape, wings, and corners to fix up any problem spots and get a book ready for its next borrower. ChromaLabel also carries colored dots and labels to help you get your returns sorted with ease. Browse our selection of supplies today and keep your library books in the hands of readers to follow!

How To Extend the Lifespan of Library Books