Healthy Books in the Winter

Now that the weather is turning cold, I wanted to remind everyone out there to make sure:

  1. your books are not under a heating vent, on a radiator, or near a heat source.
  2. your books are not housed on an outside wall that gets cold (or warm, or damp)
  3. your books aren’t in direct light or too tightly packed on a shelf

When your books are near a heat source, they dry out and the paper will become brittle and break more easily. Fluctuating temperatures aren’t healthy for your books, and neither is too much moisture, as that can cause mold growth. Light damage is cumulative and irreversible, so the less light that reaches your books, the better!

For more in-depth tips on book health, be sure to click on Healthy Books in the menu on the right-hand side of the page. Thanks for stopping by!
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In the Library by John Arthur Lomax

If Your Books Are Falling Apart at the Seams

Do you have books that need some TLC? And maybe you were impressed by BookIdeas’ post from November 18, 2014, A Bookbinder Near You, but don’t have one near you? Or, perhaps you consider yourself pretty handy or crafty, or both, and think you could do those much-needed book repairs yourself, if only you had some instruction? Well. Look no further, because today’s post is for you!

Book Repair Instructions has step-by-step guides for repairs on everything you can think of, including end papers, signatures, cleaning and repairing pages, spine repairs and more. Make sure to read the Glossary of Book Repair Terms first, though, to make sure you and the site’s author are talking about the same things. Book Repair Basics is also a vital early step, because there, the author touches on some very relevant points such as, Is my book worth repairing?, Book repair tools, How to make clam shell boxes, and other fundamentals of book repair.

Good luck! May all your broken spines be mended, and all your corners be made strong again.

Christmas Eve Book News

BBC News just released this very interesting article, entitled, E-books ‘damage sleep and health’ doctors warn. CBC.ca has also published an article on the subject, in Reading e-books at night may be ruining your sleep: study. It’s not too late to return those e-readers…

Released four days ago on Huffingtonpost.com, their article, Sadly, Rachel Maddow Just Insulted Every Independent Bookseller in America is written by bookseller William Petrocelli who took offense at the comments made on the Rachel Maddow Show on December 19. Ms. Maddow likened Sony’s failure to release the movie The Interview to bookstores in 1989 who refused to carry The Satanic Verses until the public outcry caused the books to be sold again. Mr. Petrocelli does not agree that this is a valid comparison.


A very merry Christmas to all who follow this blog and to casual observers! Thank You for making my first blog such a fun learning experience. I truly appreciate your interest and support, and wish you all the very best in 2015.

Keeping Your Books Healthy

If your bookshelf is overflowing, and it’s time to get another one, read this first. Did you know that your bookcase could be emitting acidic gases that damage your books? This post is likely a little intense for the average person who just wants to put their books somewhere off the floor. But if you have some precious old books, or if you want to take your love for books to the next level, you might find this information helpful.

Fresh wood and wood-like substances (plywood, particle board, some laminates) that contain formaldehyde should be avoided due to the acids they emit. Formaldehyde emits formic acid, which can lead to fading pigments and weakened paper. Paper that is stored near something that contains formaldehyde can then absorb the acid it emits, and we all know what happens with acidic paper: it becomes weak and brittle (see picture below).

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The paper in the images shown here has acid in it. The yellow colour and brittleness was not caused purely from being on a wood shelf. But the acids from unsealed storage can exacerbate problems in paper that is already acidic, and it can accelerate deterioration. If you have an old wooden bookcase, then the off-gassing has already occurred and it is okay for your books to be stored there. Just remember to keep the collection well ventilated. If your wooden bookcase is not old, however, you can seal the wood so it will not emit any gases. DO NOT use oil-based anything, as the oil will emit corrosive gases. But latex paint, or air-drying enamels are okay.

More information on the subject can be found in the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s pamphlet on Storage and Handling.

A Book’s Worst Enemy #4

Number Four – Adhesives and metals

How many of us have picked up a book that was mended with Scotch tape, only to have the tape come off in our hands as a rigid, brittle strip, leaving a corresponding stain on the still-broken page it was meant to fix? And how many of us have seen the rust that leaves a permanent stain on the page under a paper clip? I know you’re all nodding knowingly. Well, here’s a post to help you ensure your own library is free of casualties that can be easily avoided.

Adhesives
Adhesives like tape will break down over time, losing their stickiness, and likely staining the paper under them in the process. Images and text under the tape can also be rendered illegible by this deterioration. If you want to repair a torn page, use very fine Japanese paper and a starch paste, such as wheat or rice. Such pastes are water-soluble and can be easily removed if necessary.

If the spine of your book is coming apart, don’t use tape or Japanese paper. Go to a book binder who can re-bind it and preserve as much of the old binding as possible. (More on that in a post coming next month.)

Metals
Whether it is a paper clip, staple, straight pin, brad tack or any other type of metal fastener, it’s bad for paper, and therefore bad for books. Aside from the rust that can form, the metals emit contaminants that can break down the paper under and around the fastener, leading to brittle paper. Metal is also rough and can cut paper that is in constant contact with it. The moral of this story is, of course, to keep all metal and adhesive fasteners out of your books! If you do come across some metal tucked into a book that you want to remove, you can do so by hand, but be cautious of the paper underneath it. If you find a grommet that is embedded in the paper, or another type of fastener that is so tightly secured that removal will cause more damage, those are best left in place.

For more information on adhesives, metals and other book enemies, as well as how to combat any ill effects, see Cornell’s library website:
https://www.library.cornell.edu/preservation/librarypreservation/mee/
preservation/basicremedial.html

Red Rot: What is it?

Have you ever noticed that old books can leave their mark on you, in more ways than one?

Vegetable-tanned leathers can start to break down as a result of exposure to less-than-optimal environmental conditions like high relative humidity, airborne pollutants, or high temperature. The leather becomes powdery and reddish-brown in colour. The damage is permanent and irreversible, but further deterioration may be prevented or slowed by the application of a sealant that protects the leather from further contact with air. For all conservation or preservation procedures, application by a professional is strongly recommended. Locate a book binder or conservation expert near you to find out what they can do and how much it will cost.

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(image retrieved from http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk)

In the meantime, it’s best to keep books affected with Red Rot isolated. Sleeves of polyester, polyethylene and polypropylene are best because they are chemically stable and will therefore not affect the items stored in them. Paper boxes or enclosures work too and should be acid-free and slightly alkaline.

For more information on conservation and preservation, visit:

The Canadian Conservation Institute at http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca

The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works at http://www.conservation-us.org

There are also many museum and archive associations that will be able to guide or direct you if you have any questions.

A Book’s Worst Enemy #1

Number One – Temperature and Relative Humidity

Heat speeds up chemical reactions and thus paper decomposition. Lower temperatures are actually very good for paper, but not for humans to live in, so a low temperature is not really practical advice here. High humidity means there is a lot of moisture in the air, and when there is a lot of moisture in the air, mold and mildew can form on paper. Low humidity, on the other hand, can cause paper to dry out too much and become brittle. In an environment where relative humidity fluctuates, paper expands and contracts with moisture gains and losses, and it experiences structural stress, becoming unstable and easily susceptible to damage. Therefore, fluctuations in both temperature and relative humidity should be avoided. Lower temperatures and stable (ideally 35-45%) relative humidity are best for books.

  • Do not place your books on an outside wall that will be cold in the winter and warm in the summer.
  • Do not place your collection near heating or cooling vents so hot or cold air blows directly on them.
  • Make sure your books are not jammed in too tightly together on a shelf. Good circulation helps prevent pockets of still air, which allow for mold to grow more easily.