The Book Doctor

Most library books get used a lot, and sometimes that means they get damaged. When that happens, we’ve got a team full of skilled book healers who can put them back together as good as new.

Book damage takes a lot of different forms. Sometimes it’ll be as simple as a page that’s ripped or torn out, but other times the spine comes unglued from the pages or the binding breaks.

Donna, a Circulation Clerk at Winters-Bellbrook Community Library and a book-repair expert, has a whole collection of tools for keeping library books in good shape. Some you’d expect, like glue and several kinds of clear tape. Others are a bit more surprising, like long dowels, binder clips, and rubber bands.

Torn pages are simple to repair, but they take precision work. Donna carefully glues them back together, using slips of plastic to protect the rest of the book from the glue. She uses a specialized book repair glue—“Like Elmer’s, but on steroids,” she says—that’s extra-sturdy.

When a book’s spine comes unglued, dowels are useful for spreading the glue evenly between the spine and the cover where the nozzle can’t reach. Then, Donna puts clean dowels in the grooves along the spine and clamps them down with rubber bands to let the glue inside dry.

Board books are made of layers of cardboard, so they wear easily—particularly in the corners. Fortunately, they’re also easy to fix, by spreading glue between the layers and then clamping them together.

Once in a while, though, the repairs take a more creative form. “One time a dog had eaten the corner of a kids’ book on dinosaurs,” Donna says. “We just cut that with pinking shears and said that a dinosaur had eaten the corner. Kids loved it!”