Posted by: HouPE | 01/13/2012

Book Doctor 101

Ever find a cherished book at a garage sale or second-hand shop that you just love but shows it’s wear?  Or do you or your children have a book so beloved that you can’t bear to let it go or even replace it? There are some easy maintenance and repair tricks for doctoring these items up.

 The absolute worst for me in a book is a stale or stinky smell. As long as the smell isn’t caused by mold, mildew or moisture then the fix is a pretty easy one. Just create your own “stinky book box” as described in the book The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New by Margot Rosenberg and Bern Marcowitz. A stinky book box is any container large enough to hold the book standing up. This could be a cardboard box, a storage container, or as the authors state, even a dishwasher! It is important though that the book can be stood up and open to allow for air circulation around the pages.  The magic of the stinky book box is the additional item that is placed within the box along with the book. The authors recommend a solid cone air freshener. Other magic makers have included: baking soda, coffee grounds, and fabric softener sheets. Apparently the speed of book recovery is what prompted the authors to recommend the solid cone air freshener over the others. Though the other options have proven effective, they do require being in the book box much longer than the recommended 24 hours of the air freshener option. Important safety tip: do not let the magic ingredient, no matter what it is, to touch the book while within the box. You may create a stain instead of only removing the stink!

Parent book challenge: bubble gum – blech! How do you remove bubble gum from a book?  Very carefully! Actually, if it’s within the pages, you are out of luck. However, bubble gum on the covers is something that you can handle. Place the book in the freezer to solidify the gum. Use a scraper to remove the gum from the cover. If any residue remains, use a product such as Goo Gone to wipe clean.

An injury of overuse is the broken spine. Thankfully this is easily remedied with good ol’ fashioned Elmer’s glue, per Rosenberg and Marcowitz. Let’s not get hasty though. We can’t just go squirting a line of glue into the pages. It’ll all seep together and possibly even glue the pages together. The best method is to thin good ol’ Elmer’s glue with a touch of water to apply directly to the spine. Different people prefer different applicators but the most popular options are: toothpicks, cotton swabs and thin paint brushes. Close the book up tightly with large rubber bands or something heavy placed on top. Allow to dry thoroughly, which means well beyond when you thought it should be ready. If you find that you need to reapply, do so in small quantities. You can always add a little more, but glue is nearly impossible to take back.  

This is only a sampling of the book rescue techniques covered in The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New. You will certainly find the fix you need for your treasured books. However, there is no need for you to try to doctor on library books. Here at the library we have our own Book Doctor who is able to care for our damaged items.

The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New can be located at the Perry Public Library under Dewey number:  025.84 ROS in the Adult Nonfiction collection.

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