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Damaged books and bound archives:
practical first steps

This Preservation Advisory Centre training day was held at the British Library Centre for Conservation on 6 November 2012.

This training day is aimed at librarians and archivists. It provides an overview of how books and bound archives become damaged, action to minimise damage, and first steps to address common forms of damage. By the end of the day delegates will be able to:

  • recognise different types of damage
  • understand how damage is caused
  • minimise damage to books in their own organisation's collections
  • identify appropriate treatment options
  • make a protective enclosure for an item
  • recognise when volunteers could be used and when a conservator is needed.

The day is led by accredited conservator, Caroline Bendix whose clients include the National Trust and English Heritage. This event is part of a Preservation Learning Programme jointly sponsored by RLUK and the British Library Preservation Advisory Centre.


Why did you attend this training day?

  • To aid in evaluating our special collections and nineteenth century books for damage, and minimising that damage.
  • I am responsible for sending damaged books for repairs.
  • Practical experience of making enclosures. Being able to identify different types of damage. Learning how to prioritise treatments.
  • To learn the proper use of tapes and how to make covers.
  • To be able to assess and recognise types of damage and to ascertain where we can make a difference.

What did you learn?.

  • How to ensure the damage caused to a collection is minimised. How to take steps to prevent further damage. How to make protective wrappers and tie tapes. How to prioritise repairs. How to display books without causing damage.
  • A greater understanding of the book as an object and what to look out for as potential threats to the book.
  • Identifying best practice for storage/handling of books. How to tie labels when mending books. Identifying sources and types of damage.
  • Different types of protection for books, different types of damage and causes.
  • Practical knowledge I can implement immediately and effectively.

What will you do differently as a result of attending this training day?

  • One first step will be to perambulate my collections thinking about dangers outlined and assessing the potential for the use of various treatments.
  • Use the correct support for books. Identify damage to books in stacks.
  • Tying book tapes wider apart and according to instructions. Ensure books are sitting upright on the shelves.
  • Use melinex covers for nineteenth century books with red rot.
  • Improve my methods of conservation in library.


10.15 Registration
10.25 Welcome and introductions
10.30 Identification of different types of damage and recognition of the causes
11.30 Break
11.45 Simple steps for minimising damage
12.05 Understanding appropriate treatment options and decision-making for remedial treatment
13.00 Lunch
14.00 Understanding the use of protective enclosures. Practical exercise in tying tape and making Melinex™ wrappers
15.00 Break
15.15 Working with conservators and volunteers
16.15 Discussion
16.30 End