I had the great pleasure of having Cyndy as a book repair intern this summer. She has now provided me with the following report of her internship which, with her permission, I am sharing. The aspect of the internship and her report that I particularly appreciate is how keenly focused it is on developing skills in good basic book repair. I enjoyed this experience of spending an extended amount of time working with someone to develop foundational skills. I hope to write my reflections on this internship shortly.
Library of Michigan, Conservation Department Internship
June 1, 2011 – August 26, 2011
Intern: Cynthia Carollo
Supervisor: Kevin Driedger
Introduction & Background
This is a report on the internship I completed at the Library of Michigan during the 2011 summer semester (June – August), under the supervision of Kevin Driedger, Librarian & Conservator. The internship came about after an inquiry I made of Kevin during the Spring 2011 semester while taking a course at Clarion University titled LS 588 Preservation & Conservation of Library Materials. During my research for this course, I developed an interest in the techniques used to repair and preserve books and other library materials and decided that I wanted to do more independent research in this area of librarianship.
I visited the Library of Michigan and toured the facility with Kevin, including a visit to his work area, where I was able to see first hand the type of work done by a conservator. After this visit, I wrote to Kevin for an internship and after a few pleading emails, Kevin relented and agreed to take me on as an intern for the summer. I suspect my background in crafts and quilting may have been an influencing factor.
My experience with Kevin at the Library of Michigan not only exposed me to the tools and methods used to repair and restore library materials but I also learned a great deal about the decision making process when determining what techniques to use and when a repair might not be the best choice for a certain item.
This internship lasted long enough to allow me to learn and practice my skills with enough repetition that I feel fairly confident in my ability to do even complex repairs or restorations. In addition to the repairs in which I actually participated, I was also able to observe Kevin making repairs to rare materials using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste, creating pamphlet folders, sewing plat books into protective covers, and doing some creative repairs to very old and extensively damaged books.
Tools & Materials
After an initial tour of the library and introductions to all of the library staff, we began with an introduction to book repair. Kevin introduced me to the tools I would use for my work and we talked about how each of the tools were used and for what jobs. I was provided with a toolbox that contained many items that I was already familiar with through my use of them in crafts such as card making, quilting, and sewing.
The following is a list of the items in my toolbox and at my workspace:
Bone folder, Small & large scissors, Small spatula, Tweezers, Craft knife, Knitting needle, Various size paint brushes, Container for water, Glass container of PVA Adhesive w/lid, , “Pink Ties,” Metal Ruler Paper, binder clips, Erasers, Sand paper, Pencil, Self healing cutting mat.
Tools I borrowed from Kevin’s tool collection:
Large spatula, rotary cutter, measuring tape, Ace bandage, sewing thread – linen, sewing needles, tacking iron, scalpel, water pen
Additional Tools & Equipment:
Scrap paper, wax paper, blotter paper, Reemay (spun polyester release cloth), presses, large paper cutter, large clamp, Formica covered boards, weights, glass work surface.
Pre-cut end sheets, starched fabric on a roll, document repair tape, starched or paper backed fabric, various weights of paper for spine liners, Japanese papers of various weights and colors, PVA (polyvinyl acetate), methyl cellulose, and wheat starch paste.
With each repair I worked on, and eventually did myself, I learned how to use these tools, the equipment, and the supplies appropriately, although not without a bit of fumbling at first. It helped to have Kevin demonstrate how he accomplished a certain type of repair or used a specific tool, however, the most helpful method of learning came from watching Kevin use the tools and techniques in the course of his own work. Repeated observation coupled with demonstration and my own attempt to apply the techniques seemed to be the most effective method of learning.
The Decision Making Process
The library items that made their way to the work area for repair were selected by other librarians who had the responsibility for those collections. Sometimes the books or other materials would come with a note requesting the type of repair. It was obvious that the some of the librarians leaving notes did not fully understand the repair process. An example might be a note to reattach a spine, when the book was falling out of the case and the signatures (oh yes, I learned terminology….) were literally dangling by a thread.
Making a decision about what to do with a book or other items that arrived at the repair table required knowing which collection the item belonged to. The collections at the Library of Michigan include general materials (fiction and nonfiction), Federal Documents, the Rare Collection, the Michigan Collection including books by Michigan authors or books about Michigan, the Genealogy Collections, and the Law Collection. There are also many maps, newspapers, and microfiche collections.
An item from the Rare Collection is always repaired using the most detailed and advanced techniques because these materials are considered intrinsically valuable and have historic and often informational value as well. The Federal Documents must be maintained in a usable condition because The Library of Michigan is a Federal Documents Depository. The Michigan Collection is an important and central collection at the library because this is the state library. The Genealogy Collection is a high usage collection and must be available to researchers. The Law Collection is important for the Legislative and government employees throughout the state of Michigan as well as being a legal resource for the public.
Once the item’s collection is identified, other factors must be considered. One question to ask is how much is the item used or how much will it be used in the future. A high usage item may need to be replaced or repaired in such a way that it can tolerate repeated and frequent handling. Another question to ask is what is the current condition and how long will take to repair the item. In some cases the book is damaged beyond the point of being repaired and a box or envelop must be constructed to hold what is remaining of the book. At times, the pages of the text block are so brittle, that a repair might not be successful and again an enclosure might be used to hold the book. In another case, if the book has intrinsic value to the library, but the usage is estimated to be limited and the repair would be extensive, an enclosure might be constructed to hold the book as this takes less time, will protect the book from further damage, and will hold it’s contents together. Some books are appropriate for a full repair that might include separating the text block, recovering the boards and creating an entire new case for the book, then reconstructing the entire book with a reinforced spine, new fabric, end sheets, and case complete with headbands. This process can be time consuming but it insures a much more stable and usable book as a result.
The Repair Assessment
Once the background information on the book is determined, it is time to decide what repair is most appropriate. It is important to get a good sense of the status of the whole book before making a final decision on the repair technique. This means opening the book and examining it for loose pages or whole signatures being loose, separation of the text block from the boards, tears of the outer spine material, tears or brittleness of the internal spine materials, and so on. The assessment process is a very important part of the repair.
One of the things that became clear during my internship was that short cuts are not usually recommended. It is often better and takes less time to take the whole book apart for a full repair that to try to piece it back together with patches and adhesives. The trick is to learn which repairs will be good enough with a little patching and which need the full treatment.
The Repair Process
Throughout my internship, I was given progressively more difficult and complex repairs as well as progressively more independence in choosing the technique and proceeding with the repair.
I started with deconstruction of materials under Kevin’s direct supervision. My first task was the deconstruction of a tightly bound set of federal documents that had been bound into a hard cover case. This was a somewhat tedious task but it provided a good lesson in how a book is constructed and I was able to identify the different parts of the book and the methods that were used to bind these pamphlets into a hardbound volume.
During the remainder of my internship, I did various book repairs that included the following:
1. Deconstruction of hard bound books
a. Removing the text block from the case
b. Scraping spine of old paper and fabric
c. Removing end sheets (paste down & fly leaf), and often the initial and end pages.
d. Scraping the remnants of the paste downs from front & back cover.
e. Separating/cutting the spine from boards if necessary
f. Removing spine lining
g. Preparation of the boards if the new spine fabric was to be placed under the cloth or paper cover.
h. Removal of dust jackets
i. Cutting apart the sewing between signatures.
2. Reconstruction of books
a. Applying new end sheets to create a paste down and fly leaf
b. Tipping in pages at the ends of the text block and a few internal pages.
c. Reinforcing and reshaping the spine of a book with a layer or two of PVA
d. Applying new fabric to the spine and if appropriate, paper on top of that for strength and stability of the text block.
e. Adhering new spine liners to existing spines or creating whole new cloth or paper spines
f. Attaching spines to the board under the existing fabric or over if there were no designs on the covers to preserve.
g. Using knitting needles to glue the paste down back onto the board in a simple repair that did not require the removal of the boards.
h. Application of Japanese paper on page tears
i. Construction of a hinge with Japanese paper for the attachment of end sheets
j. Use of Japanese paper in constructing a portion of a spine
k. Use of archival document repair tape
l. Application of heat sensitive tissue
m. Sewing signatures together to reconstructed a text block
n. Tattered corner repair with small boards, wax paper, and binder clips.
3. Additional repairs
a. Construction of a Phase box.
b. Construction of a Clam Shell box.
Summary and Conclusion
I am in complete agreement with Kevin regarding the ability to learn book repair at a one-day workshop. Single repair techniques could be taught and used by the attendees, but serious book repair, particularly the removal of the text block from the case and then reconstruction is a skill that takes repeated practice. Courses designed to concentrate on one skill such as creating a Phase box or a Clamshell box might make a good one-day class. Repairs of page tears, tipping in pages, tattered corner repairs, and the knitting needle repair would also make a good one-day class, as these are repairs appropriate to public or school libraries. Any class that involved the removal of an entire text block and reconstruction would be much more appropriate for a multiple day class as even the drying time between the steps needs to be included and doing this process multiple times is the only way to get the actual “feel” for how to manipulate the tools and the book itself.
My internship at the Library of Michigan did help me get the “feel” of library conservation and preservation. The experience gave me an inspiring glimpse into the whole process of book repair as well as understanding the decision making steps that go into the job of maintaining a collection of library materials.
There was much I was not able to see or participate in during such a short assignment but I think I was exposed to enough of the process that I could repair books in a public or academic library, especially small or partial repairs that would prolong the life of a book and avoid costly offsite repairs. When I find myself in a librarian position, I hope that I will be allowed to use these skills to maintain that library’s collection if even as a small part of my responsibilities.
As I have already said many times, I am extremely grateful to Kevin and the Library of Michigan for this wonderful experience and I hope that I may use my skills somewhere along the way in my career as a librarian or where ever the course of my life takes me in the future. I would also highly recommend Kevin Driedger, as many already have, as a great teacher, cook, and conversationalist.