Sunday, January 25, 2009

Basic library procedures: Binding

Towers have been razed to the ground: cities have been overthrown: triumphant arches have perished from decay; nor can either pope or king find any means of more easily conferring the privilege of perpetuity than books. The book that he has made renders its author this service in return, that so long as the book survives its author remains immortal and cannot die...

Richard de Bury:
14th Century Philoblion

Binding procedures are the steps taken to ensure the preservation of written, printed, or near-print materials through a process of attaching permanent covers to the gathered pages. Although some very large university and research libraries maintain in-house bindery operations to deal with special materials (e.g., rare books, oversize books, pamphlets, sheet music), most libraries send material to a commercial binder. The selection of a commercial binder needs to be made very carefully and a number of factors should be considered including the binder's:

  • workmanship
  • accessibility
  • turn around time
  • willingness to assume financial responsibility for material in his care
  • ability to handle volume
  • price schedule

In an effort to create standards for library binding, the Library Bindery Institution (LBI) was established in 1935. This is a trade association of commercial library bookbinders of the United States and Canada. One of the Institute's principal objectives is to inspect and certify library binderies as to the quality of materials and level of workmanship in the books they bind. No library bindery whose binding fails to meet the Institute's standards promulgated on January 1, 1958, can warrant its binding to be Library Binding and, therefore, to be in compliance with all the requirements of the Library Binding Institute standard for library binding. A list of the members of the Library Binding Institute is available on the Internet (see below).

Binding and new acquistions
Libraries have a number of binding choices for new acquisitions. Options include: publishers trade binding; prebound library bindings; publisher's library bindings; and permabinding.

Once new library materials begin to circulate, they are exposed to hazards that can damage them. In circulation materials are often mistreated by patrons and exposed to food, dirty hands, moisture, and heat. Corners will be turned down on pages and among other things, books will be dropped, jammed onto tight shelves, written in with crayon, pen and highlighters, and chewed on by bugs, dogs and children. A worn book can often be repaired or rebound and thus have its shelf life extended.

In the rebinding process, the book is:

  • Removed from the original binding.
  • Trimmed.
  • Put into a new more durable binding.
  • Relabelled.
This gives the worn book a longer life and sometimes, a more attractive appearance. There has been controversy in recent years among conservationists about the loss of original bindings from books through the use of commercial binding. Original bindings tell the story of the progression of the North American publishing industry; are examples of the sheer beauty of the North American decorative arts; and contain important research data for scholars studying bibliographic history. Rebinding a book may be destroying valuable information. For an intersting overview of this issue refer to "Packaging the American Word" listed in the WWW resources at the end of this article.

Each library has differing needs for books, magazines, pamphlets, and serials. Therefore, each library must weigh the value of an individual item with regard to binding.

Some questions to consider before rebinding:

1. Is the item worth keeping in the collection?
Obviously this is a key question. Most small and medium sized libraries cannot keep every item they ever receive. Special consideration needs to be given to the value of each item. For example the following questions might be asked:

  • What are the circulation figures for the item?
  • Will the item be in high demand for the future?
  • Are there additional copies in the library?
  • Is the book of of date in its content?
  • Can the item be replaced?
  • If it is out of date and out of print, does it have important historical value?
  • Does the book have some other special importance to the collection?

2. Is the cost of rebinding less than the cost of a new copy?
Binding prices vary according to binder and according to the size of the book. It may cost less to bind an older item than buy a new edition.

3. What is the physical condition of the item?
If the item is worth retaining, the physical condition of the item may be the deciding factor in whether it can be rebound. Factors to consider:

  • Is the item reasonably clean with no excessive damage to pages? If pages are missing or if they are filmsy, brittle, badly torn, or excessively marked up the book may not be worth rebounding.
  • Are the inner margins at least 1” in width? In the binding process, at least 1/2“ is required for oversewing and the pages will have to be trimmed.
  • Does the item have full-spread illustrations? The value of these will be lost in binding because pages will be trimmed.
  • Has the item already been bound? If an item has been bound once, it usually cannot be bound again because it has already been trimmed.
  • Has the book been carelessly or improperly mended? The following "repairs" may make it impossible to bind a book:
    Application of too much glue on the inside cover, or when tipping in loose leaves. The glue runs between the leaves so far it is impossible to separate the leaves without tearing the entire inner margin or destroying some print.
    Use of gummed cloth for reinforcing joint. When the volume is being trimmed, it will skid if the gummed cloth is not removed.
    * Mending tears with tape. The removal of the tape will destroy some of the print

Rebinding should be considered when the following conditions exist:

  • There are no replacement copies.
  • There are several loose sections or signatures.
  • The cover of the book has been severly damaged but the contents are in good shape.
  • There are many loose pages and they will be permanently lost without rebinding.
Mending would be another option if the item (more information about simple book repairs will be provided in the next blog entry):
  • Has torn or loose pages.
  • Weak or damaged hinges.
  • Loose signatures.
  • Worn cover.

1. Has your library ever sent items away for binding? Yes No
2. If it has, what types of materials were sent and what were the reasons for doing so?
Where I am currently working, we bind together a year's worth of the Manitoba Gazette as we find that stacking them into folders is not the best way to preserve the paper over time.
3. If it has not, what reasons do you think were behind the decision not to bind materials? Do you think items should be sent to a commercial bindery?

Preparing books for shipment to the bindery
Before books are sent to a commercial bindery, procedures for preparing materials should be agreed upon with the bindery. Some procedural considerations include:

  • Is a binding slip required for each book?
  • Should an alphabetical list of the books in the shipment be provided?
  • Will the call number, as well as the author and title, be placed on the spine of each book by the binder?
  • If books are sent and then returned without binding, will information be provided on the reason for not binding?
  • Will the books be rebound with picture covers which are reproductions of the original cover or the original dust jacket?

Once the library's instructions have been issued to a commercial binder, they become part of the bindery's records and are reserved until changed. A workable set of specifications must be established that fit the individual library. Specifications should include:

  • Quality of cloth binding.
  • Instuctions for lettering including type size and colour.
  • Colour of cloth binding.
  • Sewing or gluings.

Before books selected for binding are packed:

  1. Ensure that no pages or sections are missing. Carefully and properly mend any torn pages.
  2. Verify the library ownership and identification marks are still on each item.
  3. Mark the title page. With a pencil, underline the first letter of the author's last name with two lines. Underline the first letter in the title with one line. Write the call number on it.

  4. Remove any dust jackets, book pockets and cards, or bar code labels. File cards and pockets by title in a binding file.
  5. Charge out items to "Bindery".
  6. Place a bindery form or slip into each book. This is the sheet of instructions sent to binder with the specific instructions for binding an item. The binding slip is inserted at the title page or between the front cover and body of the book. It should protude beyond the edge of the book. The slip will indicate the style, colour, lettering, and any special instructions.
  7. Send sample volumes or a rub-off if matching is necessary for lettering on the binding. A rub-off or rubbing is an impression of the lettering and its position on the spine of a book. To create a rubbing, place a piece of strong, thin paper, the exact length of the book and a little wider over the spine, exactly even with the bottom of the spine. Hold the paper firmly and then rub with a soft lead pencil until every letter of each word is clearly transferred. Indicate the top of the volume with a horizontal line. Use of a standardized lettering plan improves the appearance of a library's bound items and eliminates the need for rub-offs.
  8. Prepare a binding list. On the list include author, title, and call number of each item. Indicate the total number of items, copies of items, and date sent. File one copy for your own records and send a duplicate copy to the binder in one box of the order.
  9. Divide materiali for binding according to type (this may not be required by some binders). Books and serials should be separated.
  10. Pack all items and label booces. Be careful in packing to ensure that no shifting occurs. Some binders supply their own boxes and shipping labels.
  11. Notify bindery of impending shipment. Indicate the number of boxes in shipment, number of books, date of shipment, and shipment method. Notify binder of any "Rush" items. Some binders will pick up and deliver.

Receiving material from bindery
When a shipment returns from the bindery:

  1. Unpack the boxes.
  2. Check items received against packing slip and verify receipt of all items. Any items not received are noted on the packing slip and the bindery should be notified.
  3. Check invoice against packing slip and original order.
  4. Check each item against bindery form to ascertain if it has been bound according to specifications (colour, lettering, correct author, title, and call number). Check for faulty workmanship.
  5. Remove book cards, pockets, or other records from bindery files. Discharge items from "Bindery".
  6. Reapply book cards, pockets, and barcode labels. Replace dust jackets.
  7. Replace marks of library ownership.
  8. Put call number labels on the spine if not done by the binder.
  9. Reshelve books.

Sometimes items are returned unbound. The bindery may have returned the item because: the volume is incomplete; the physical condition of the paper may make rebinding impossible; and unusual or extra binding process may be required that will incur extra charges above the usual rate.

Binding serials and special materials
Preparing serials for binding is slightly more complicated than handling books. Only complete sets or volumes should be sent to the bindery. It is very important to check sets and make sure that they are in the proper order. The contents of individual issues should also be checked to make sure that pages are not missing. The volume or year must be complete and in nearly perfect condition for binding. Replacement issues and pages should be requested to fill in any gaps in a serial.

Pamphlets are typically not sent out for binding. These materials have a limited life and lose their usefulness in a short time. Pamphlet covers or boxes can be purchased and applied in house.

In some cases books may be too brittle to bind, incomplete, or rare and requiring extensive treatment at a later date. An option for these materials is the marginal materials case (or phase box), a simple enclosure designed to provide stable security to damaged materials on the shelf.

Additional references
Merrill-Oldham, Jan and Parisi, Paul. Guide to the Library Binding Institute standard for library binding. Chicago : American Library Association, 1990.

Websites on binding
Cornell University Library. Preservation Department. Guidelines for the shortening of binders' titles.
The standard commercial binding cost premium for lines of lettering in excess of seven is 20 cents per line. It is therefore important that titles, inclusive of volume numbers, months, years, etc., should be confined to a maximum of seven lines. In order to minimize reader confusion, a consistent method for reducing title length based upon normal forms of citation should be used.

Preservation Directorate. Library of Congress. Leather dressing.
Short handout on the care of leather bindings and warnings about the use of leather dressings.

Preservation Directorate. Library of Congress. Packaging the American word: a survey of 19th and early 20th century American publishers' bindings in the general collections of the Library of Congress.
In 1996, a random sample was drawn from the Library's database of books published between 1830 and 1914 by six prominent American publishing houses. The purpose was to examine the condition of these materials with emphasis on the preservation of publishers' cloth bindings. It is hoped that this survey and its results will help to raise awareness of the value of original publishers' bindings and assist in determining how well the Library of Congress is caring for this population of books.

Preservation Directorate. Library of Congress. Library binding institute members--1998.
A list of the 1998 Library Binding Institute members.

Roberts, Matt T., and Etherington, Don. Bookbinding and the conservation of books: a dictionary of descriptive terminology
Provides definitions and explanations, as well as the biographical vignettes.

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