More than One Way to Love Books
We all know that Library books are tough, but sometimes they just can’t take any more handling, or another slide down the book drop, and they start falling apart.
What happens then? If the Adult Collection Development Librarian decides the damaged book should be put back into circulation, volunteer Beth Lewis is one of the people whose expertise we depend on.
Putting a book back together takes a specialized set of skills, and is especially important for very expensive or out-of-print book.
The work requires special tools and materials, lots of patience and incredible attention to detail. Fortunately for the Library, Beth studied book repair and binding under the former head of the Rare Book Repair Division of the Library of Congress. Beth got into book repair to learn to sew musical scores for her husband, who is a conductor.
Over the 6 years that she has volunteered at Central Library, Beth estimates her team has repaired over a thousand books. “We consider ourselves book healers, kind of like doctors for books,” she said. “First you do a thorough exam, analyze what’s wrong, and then plan the best approach. You need to be brave because many of the books need to be totally disassembled into their component parts before repair can even begin,” she explained.
Tools of the Book Repair trade:
“Book repair is basically a very solitary job and you must be extremely focused. But, it is so rewarding after you pull a book apart and put it back together so it can be returned to the shelves and people can enjoy it once again. It’s like saving a life,” she said.
Beth’s work shows that there is more than one way to love books. “I’ve been obsessed with libraries my whole life,” she said. “I love books, even though it’s hard for me to read because I have very bad dyslexia.”
Adapted from the original column by Volunteer Newsletter reporter Maureen Quinn.
Interested in becoming a Library volunteer? Check out the Current Openings on our Volunteer Page.
Beth, Thanks for all the work you do on repairing books! I too have been obsessed with libraries. I enjoy spending time in libraries, and reading books I enjoy. Repairing books keeps them available to enjoy. Thanks again!
Would you ever consider offering a seminar on book repair to patrons? I’d love to learn from an expert!
The Librarians says
We are looking into it – we’ll keep you posted!
Great job Beth! I would like to collaborate and learn from you. I agree with Jen’s idea. Let me know if there is something I can do.
Patricia Campiglia says
Great job on repairing library books. I would also appreciate a seminar on book repair and would love to volunteer to help repair books.
The Librarians says
We are pleased to announce that Beth will teach a 1 hour workshop on Book Repair Basics in the Center for Local History on Tuesday, June 3, at 6:00 p.m.
Topics she will cover:
• Anatomy of a book
• Basic book repair tools
• Elementary diagnostics: how to tell if you can fix your book, or if you need a pro
• Demonstration of basic repairs
A calendar listing and registration info will go up at the beginning of May – stay tuned!
Jeanne Garant says
I would like to volunteer repairing books. I am an artist, have done lots of collage and some artists books. I realize this is a real specialty but I am willing to learn this special technique. I have been a resident artist at the Torpedo Factory Art Center for 35 years and since leaving I have time to volunteer my time to something that interests me.
Web Editor says
That’s great to know. To apply to volunteer, visit our Volunteer Opportunities page and fill out the online application (on the right hand side of the page).