Common Book Problems – And How to Solve Them!

How can I remove the musty smell from old a course in miraclesWhile you can probably not completely remove the smell, there are ways to minimize it. On way is to create a deodorizing chamber. Take two garbage cans, one large and one smaller. The smaller must be able to contain the book(s) to be deodorized, the larger must be able to contain the smaller with some room about the sides. The book to be deodorized should be placed in the smaller can, which is then placed inside the larger can. Placed odor-absorbing materials (such as baking soda, cedar chips, coffee grounds, charcoal briquettes(without lighter fluid), or kitty litter), in the bottom of the larger can. The lid should be placed on the larger can only and the whole should be left alone for some time (days, at least). Monitor the set-up periodically by sniffing the book(s).

A second option is the use of MicroChamber products. These remove by-products of deterioration and pollutants, such as the smell from mold and mildew. They are like pieces of paper, which can be placed between the pages of the book. Place a sheet of the fine, 100% cotton interleaving tissue between the front board and the endpaper, every 50 pages throughout the volume, and again between the back board and the endpaper. Close the book and set it aside until the odor is reduced.

Our basement flooded and the pages of my high school yearbook are stuck together, what can I do? Unfortunately, not much. Yearbooks, pamphlets, magazines, and art books are often composed from glossy coated paper. If this paper becomes wet and then begins to dry, the coating on one page sticks to the coating on the next. It can’t be reversed. For institutions which suffer water damage to books, freezing within 6 hours, followed by vacuum freeze drying, can be successful in saving this type of material. The vacuum freeze drying is carried out by a commercial service such as AFD.

If the pages are only partially stuck together, you can try to gently separate the pages with a micro spatula. Going slowly and carefully may salvage some of the pages. There will be some loss in the areas where the pages were stuck.

Rain came in the window and my book was soaked. Anyway to make it readable again? Although it will never look as good as it once did, it can be made readable again. Using blotter paper or paper towels, blot as much water from the book as possible. DO NOT rub either the cover or the wet pages. Stand the book on its tail and fan open the pages. You don’t want a direct heat source for drying, but a warm dry one. If possible dry the book in this position in the sunlight or with the use of a fan. The more quickly the book dries the less the pages will ripple. If cover is warped, you can place the book between two press boards and place in a book press for several days (or under several heavy books!).

I opened one of my books and saw a tiny bug crawling in it, what should I do? They are most likely booklice (also known as psocids) or silverfish. Booklice are extremely small, about 1-2mm long. Silverfish are larger(up to 12.5mm) and over time can eat holes in paper. Often they show up when humidity is a problem in a storage area. If it a book or two, place them in an airtight plastic bag and put them in your freezer a couple of days. That will kill the insects. If more books are involved but only a few insects are seen, reduce the humidity in the space and vacuum the materials well. If you still see insects after a few days, or if the problem is widespread, you will have to resort to killing them. While non-chemical measures are preferable to chemical treatments, “bug bombing” the room will take care of the infestation. Just remember to address the cause of the insects – temperature and humidity problems. Keep them both low. It is best to contact a preservation professional to discuss appropriate options is valuable books are involved.

We have some old wooden bookcases. Are they safe and appropriate for valuable book storage? From the perspective of preservation, valuable books should be stored on metal shelving, as wood shelving can give off damaging pollutants. To make the wood shelving a “safe” as possible, seal all the wood with a moisture-borne polyurethane. Avoid oil-based paints and stains because of the oil and latex because of its inability to completely adhere. Shelves can be lined with glass, Plexiglas, or an inert metallic laminate material to prevent materials from coming into direct contact with the wood. If the bookcases are closed wooden cabinets or shelving which are not usually accessed, they should be aired out several times per year to minimize the buildup of damaging fumes.

I have some old leather books whose bindings are dried and cracked, should I put leather dressing on them? No. The use of leather dressings (neatsfoot oil, lanolin, etc.) is no longer recommended by conservators and preservationists. They tend to have undesirable effects such as discoloration, staining, and stickiness; wicking of oil into adjoining materials; and increased danger of mold growth on treated materials; among other problems. If flaking or cracked leather covers are a problem, they can be wrapped in paper or polyester jackets. This will keep the fragments and dirt from flaking off further and onto hands and other books. Leather dressing can be appropriate for some objects, but advice should be sought from a conservator before using it.

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