Frequently Asked Questions

Finding a Conservator

Do the conservators in Dartmouth College Library's Preservation Services repair books from private collections?
No, the conservators in Preservation Services can only work on items owned by the Dartmouth College Library. If you have something you would like repaired or rebound you should try to find a conservator in your area.

How can I find a conservator in my area?
Look in the yellow pages under "Book binders" for a book binder or conservator in your area. Another way to locate a conservator is to contact the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC). Their website provides information on how to find and select a conservator. A third option is to contact a college or university library in your area or region. They may be aware of conservators and can point you to them.

If you are in New Hampshire or Vermont you may contact Deborah Howe, the Collections Conservator for Dartmouth College Library, for referrals to local Conservators.

Does Preservation Services provide commercial binding services for students who have completed a thesis or dissertation?
The library no longer facilitates binding of theses and dissertations. If you would like to have it bound you may contact The Hfgroup in Charlestown, Massachusetts or Bridgeport National Bindery in Agawam, Massachusetts. The The Hfgroup web site includes a job quote form for theses binding.


Simple Book Repair Manual Information

Is it possible to purchase a paper copy of the Simple Book Repair Manual?
The Simple Book Repair Manual was created by members of Preservation Services, Dartmouth College Library. It was created on the web, no paper version exists. Permission is granted for copying and redistribution as long as this copyright notice is included:

Copyright 1996 the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. All rights reserved.

Funding for this web site was provided by the National Park Service's National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, Natchitoches, Louisiana and Dartmouth College Library. NCPTT promotes and enhances the preservation of prehistoric and historic resources in the United States for present and future generations through the advancement and dissemination of preservation technology and training. NCPTT's Preservation Technology and Training Grants program develops partners in non-profit organizations, universities and government agencies throughout the United States to complete critical preservation work and lends significant support to cutting-edge developments in the conservation and preservation community.


Mold, Mildew and Insects

How do I dry a wet book?
Wet books should be dried as soon as possible so that mold does not develop. Air drying is a simple process and one needs only a clean, flat surface, a fan, and paper towels. The key is to frequently replace the paper towels as they absorb water. These videos from Heritage Preservation show how air drying is done. Please note to use protective gloves if the books were flood damaged or the water source is unknown.

If there are a great number of wet books and it is unlikely that they all can be air dried within 48 hours it may be necessary to freeze the books. Heritage Preservation includes instructions for freezing. Later the books can be removed from the freezer and air-dried using a fan.

You can find more information at the Heritage Preservation website.

What can I do about moldy books?

These websites have relevant information:

How do I eliminate or reduce a musty odor in a book?
Our neighbors at the Northeast Document Conservation Center say this: There is no guaranteed way to remove the musty smell from old books, but there is a strategy that may be successful. This musty smell is most often noted in books that have been moldy or mildewed in the past. The first step is to create an enclosed chamber. This is most easily done by using two garbage cans, one large (with a lid) and one small. The object to be "deodorized" should be placed in the smaller can, which is then placed inside the larger can. Some type of odor-absorbing material should then be placed in the bottom of the larger can. Odor-absorbing materials to try include baking soda, charcoal briquettes (without lighter fluid), or kitty litter. The lid should then be placed on the larger can, and the chamber should be left for some time. You will need to monitor periodically to see how long the materials need to be left inside the chamber.

What can I do about insect damage to books?
If there is no evidence of crawling bugs or bug droppings then you may assume the damage is old. An easy way to rid a book or papers of bugs is to wrap in plastic and place in the freezer for a couple of weeks. Oxygen deprivation and cold temperatures will kill the bugs.

Inspect the area where the book was stored. Look for signs of mold or insects. Do not return the book to that area until it has been cleaned and any hiding places for bugs have been removed.

I have an old leather-bound book that leaves a red powder on my hands whenever I touch it. What causes this and what can I do to the book to fix it?
Leather-bound volumes sometimes develop red rot, a condition where the leather deteriorates into a fine powder. Red rot cannot be reversed or cured. Some solutions include replacing the leather cover or placing the book in a box so it will not leave a residue on books it is shelved adjacent to. For more ideas on how to handle a book with red rot contact a conservator.



How should I pack books for long term storage?
Place the books flat in a box or on end with the spine down. Be very careful not to distort the book when packing because if the spine is misaligned it will take that shape and will be very difficult to straighten.

A very important consideration is where the box will be stored. The box should be in a cool and dry place away from insects and rodents which might eat any of the component parts of a book (i.e. paper, starch in the bookcloth, glue). The Library of Congress web site has information about proper care and storage of books.

I have books with minor to major leaning. What is the best way to straighten them?
Unfortunately there is no easy remedy for this problem once it has occurred. Prevention is the best solution and keeping your books upright with the proper support on either side will work to stop this problem.

Sometimes if the leaning is not too bad, flexing the binding in the opposite direction will lessen the problem. With worse cases of leaning, this is usually not successful. The best way to stop this is to have the book rebound, which can be rather expensive. Only by removing the binding and the layers which stiffen the spine of the textblock, then straightening the book out, the relining the spine and reattaching the cover can you be sure the book will stand straight.

If you are interested in pursuing this route look in the yellow pages under "Bookbinders" to find specific names.



Where can I find the supplies listed in the Simple Book Repair Manual?
These names are provided for informational purposes only and in no way should be interpreted as an endorsement of their products nor an exhaustive list of archival suppliers.

What is a common name for PVA adhesive, Sobo, or Elmer's Glue?
Technically speaking, both Sobo and Elmer’s are PVA-based glues. For bookbinding and repair, the quality of the glue is very important. Flexibility when dry and pH neutrality are both important for long-term preservation. In our conservation lab we use Jade 403, which is a pH-neutral PVA adhesive with a medium drying time and good flexibility. Jade is available from some art supply stores and bookbinding supply vendors.


Don't see your question?  Contact Preservation Services.