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Preservation Interest Group

Guide to provide a forum to learn and share ideas about the various aspects of preservation.

Meeting Overview

The May 15, 2018 Preservation Interest Group meeting on binding options was attended by 7 people representing a number of Capital District institutions.

Facilitators Ann C. Kearney and Karen E. Kiorpes, both from the University at Albany, began with a history of library binding. They discussed options for binding material, including using a commercial binder, doing procedures in-house, and hiring a conservator to bind fragile and valuable items. They also discussed supplies needed for doing binding work in-house.

The meeting concluded with a discussion of future topics for the group. No future meetings were scheduled. The facilitators and CDLC staff will develop a schedule and distribute to members.

Commercial binding was very competitive in the United States until about 2000. It was one of the first library preservation services. Sending to a bindery was cost effective and standardized so an easy service to use even if you do not know a lot about preservation and binding. Now only a handful of binderies left, so prices have gone up and response time is slower. However, binderies are now more willing to work with small places because they do no have huge serials contracts.

Obstacles to using commercial bindery:

  • Cash outlay. Cheaper than staff time if have to do by hand. Also work done in-house is usually weaker and takes longer.
  • Understanding what a bindery can do.
    • Some do hand work for pamphlets, fragile material, etc.
    • Can create custom boxes if they have dimensions.
    • Prebind children's books with cheap bindings.
  • Need to monitor invoices and quality.
    • Make sure bindery follows library binding standard - Z39.78-2000 (R2010)
    • Ask about extra charges before sending material.
  • Determine whether you want to use an RFP and contract
    • Better service and price with contract.
    • University at Albany can provide copies of their RFP so you don't need to start from scratch.
    • Could work with other institutions to get lower group price, but takes coordination.
  • Brittle books are too fragile for bindery machinery.
  • If text too close to gutter of book, cannot be commercially rebound without losing text.

Working with an independent book conservator;

  • Institutions like Northeast Document Conservation Center do careful, expert work, but can be very expensive.
  • Can use private conservator for a small number of items.
  • Northeast Document Conservation Center's leaflet, Choosing and Working with a Conservator, provides more guidance.
  • Some commercial binderies can refer you to book conservators or have them on staff as consultants. These people have been vetted by the binderies.
  • American Institute for Conservation has a list of approved conservators. To get on the list, conservators have to go through an extended approval process that includes essays, recommendations, and a portfolio. The list is very reliable. There are several book and paper conservators in our region on the list. 

Questions to ask conservators:

  • Training
  • Practice scope. Can ask to see portfolio.
  • Length of time practicing
  • Membership in professional organizations.
  • References
  • Business practices
    • What do charges cover? For example, examination, treatment proposal, treatment, treatment reports, documentation of what was done.
    • How do they charge? By the item? Hourly? Is travel time included?
    • When do they bill?
    • Time frame for work. May be important if you want item for an exhibit.

Doing work in-house

  • Some private conservators will contract to provide basic training for your staff.
  • Pamphlet binding good candidate for in-house work because relatively simple and must all be done by hand.
  • Pamphlet binders without the "moisten and stick" adhesive are preferable.
  • Enclosures are an alternative to binding, especially for low use items.
  • Copy brittle pamphlets that can't be sewn. Bind the copy and put original in storage.
  • CoLibri covers can be used instead of rebinding if don't want to remove cover but want to contain dust and red rot on original cover.
  • Many companies will send you sample products so you can see if they meet your needs. Ask!
  • Archival Products specializes in enclosures. They work closely with preservation and library professionals and are good at addressing individual problems.

Vendors for Archival Containers and Boxes

Library Binders

Other Resources

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