9.10.2009

From the bindery: welcome to book repair

It occurred to me that part of The Q Lab should actually include the lab at work (or as we tend to call it--the shop). Not only does book repair zap most my bookbinding time, efforts, and energy, but i also come across some crazy, kooky stuff (stay tuned for scans from the 1968 bowling guide...), including fine examples of how NOT to repair a book.

so in commemoration of the pending fall (and therefore the end of the gardening season and the return of the bookbinding season)..........welcome to Book Repair.


this is the corridor of needy books that greets one at the entrance to book repair. (and yes, that blinding light at the end of the tunnel is heaven! we have the best light in the library, ps.) the books on the left are divided by floors and await subject selectors' decisions on which to repair and which to replace or withdraw. i spend a good chunk of time managing these shelves, keeping books stacked well, weeding out quick repairs (like a simple page tip-in), and chasing down librarians to get them to come review their books. while these are all books from the circulating collection rather than special collections, we still do a fair amount of 19th century books, which often tend to be either half-leather bindings sewn on cords with their front and back boards coming off, OR, dilapidated cloth-case bindings with the worse paper ever. love it.

once librarians make their decision, my boss and i check off what repairs the books need and put them on the repair shelves on the right, where students grab them. the 15 or so book repair students are all divided into floors and work with a team leader to get the work done. thanks to their hard work this summer, we cleared out the book repair backlog for the first time in years (maybe ever). i try to get students interested in and motivated to do big, odd projects (like giant atlases) but am not always successful. this summer, tho, everyone went on a split board kick, so we are getting some big books out of the way.

here's some of the equipment we have around the shop.


this is the corner o' machines. in the center you'll notice a nice, new guillotine, fully automated, including safety sensors that won't allow the blade to drop even if you are leaning in just a bit too far. Next to it on the right is a sander, and next to that the coolest , biggest stapler ever. on the left is a drill.

here's a closer look

this drill can hole punch an entire ream of paper if need be. the drill bit is lowered by foot pedal.


stapler up close. flip on the switch, press the foot pedal, KA-CHUNK! there's a little lever on the left that you use to set the staple length, so you can staple a ream of paper if you want to. there is also a saddle attachment so you can staple folds. we don't use this much, but it's fun when we do!


paper, leftover stock from stuff we don't do anymore, and binders board fill these shelves.


buckram leftover from days of yore. (for those unfamiliar, buckram is that thick, plastic-y cloth that library books are bound in) this is excellent old-school buckram some people might really like to get their hands on. we almost never use it since most the items that would be bound in buckram (like periodicals) get sent to the commercial bindery in SLC.


some rolls and pre-cut squares of starch-filled C-cloth and paper-backed cloth. flat files of japanese paper, silicon release paper, and some handmade papers.


more flat files (can't remember what's in them), plus scraps (looking a little messy). we're getting better at saving scraps that are actually useful, but every once in awhile, i find a scrap in the shelves that is a tiny sliver of cloth. same problems never go away....


paper-backed book cloth! would that we had had all these colors at school!


making new cases is one of the main things students do in book repair. we like to match the new cover to the old as much as possible......


......so having the full rainbow is helpful. and fun!


years ago, my sister pear made this guide on how to cut cloth economically. somehow it's ignored more than it's adhered to. whenever cloth is cut badly and wastefully, we say it's been murdered!


this is one of my favorite machines--the adhesive binder! in this photo, it's set for a flatback binding, but we have different shapes and sizes of curved attachements which allow you to put the round the book. much easier than jogging the book together by hand, putting in the round using a paper towel role, and then--pinching it with all your might so nothing moves--somehow dropping it into a standing press. the adhesive binder rounds and clamps all in one. (altho i'm glad i've done it the other way, too)


sinks and giant tupperwares for humidification chambers. we haven't had a flood for awhile, but when i was a student, we helped clean up over 1400 books after a flood.


fume hood, kwikprint, and some presses. the fume hood is almost exclusively used when we spray krylon on our new paper labels to seal the ink.


my bench.


view of the shop from my bench. there are 14 benches, and right now we have 15 or 16 employees (not counting three who are on study abroad). students hale from all over the U.S. and from Slovakia, Russia, Kenya, Mauritius, Uruguay, and Columbia. it's been an interesting experience teaching and training people who are not interested in becoming bookbinders. i've loved teaching students more about why we do things the way we do, and encouraging them to keep asking questions, questions, questions. some days i'm so harried and wish i had an office to just step out and away from it (i feel bad now, for the times i bugged mark in his office at school..:)); other days are calm and quiet, and i can catch a moment here or there to continue experimenting on some new variation on a repair.



some of our standing presses. the one on the right is the oldest. we have four total.

check out our awesome rack. about 15 years ago (or more), a book repair student designed these press inserts for a class project so that students could back their books and then move them to the rack to dry overnight. this frees up the presses so more people can back their books, and the workflow doesn't get stalled. ingenious!


here's a close-up of the inserts in action. just tighten the wing nuts, loosen the press, and carry your book-in-insert to the rack.


the last work station in the shop includes the label-making and bindery prep computer stations. students use the mac at the end to make paper labels for new cases. we use Indesign and match the original labels' fonts and looks as much as possible. you can see how the newly cased books on the shelf are color-coordinated so that the student can fit as many labels as possible on the matching piece of moriki paper.

the 2 bindery prep students work for me, specifically (officially i'm the Book Repair Assistant and Bindery Prep Supervisor). they are responsible for processing and prepping monographs and periodicals to go to the commercial binder. we send a shipment twice a month. it's a pain. in the old days they sent a shipment of 800 items every week! but with so much electronic access for periodicals, we only send about 500 items a month.


the boss's office. this is where we eat and have shop parties. we cook paste in the microwave. yes, the microwave. it works fine. (don't all faint at once)


board sheer.


giant board sheer and chewbacca (the black board sheer on the left. it needs to be oiled. if you lift the blade just slowly enough, it sounds just like Chewbacca.)


thus ends the virtual tour. come fall i will begin coming to work on saturdays where i can have the place and equipment all to myself for my own work. i also can borrow anything i need from the conservation lab across the hall (including finishing tools!!!!). it's a sweet setup i really haven't taken enough advantage of. but don't worry, i'm ready.

8 comments:

Amanda, Curtis, Ellis, Hugh said...

It's fun to see the work place, Bid; even though I've been there in person, it all makes more sense to me now. Welcome autumn and its opportunities for new routines, new energies. Bind, very Bid one! Bind like the wind!

Mary Malcarne Thomas said...

I know this isn't your dream job--but man oh man it looks like it could be! Now I want a real life tour. Pleaaaaasssseee!

Emma said...

Q. This looks great! I am jealous of all the equipment you have access to...you better take advantage!

Sue said...

I visited book repair once in my student days. - I had a book from the library whose pages had never been cut. They told me that it would take 3 to 6 months to get the pages cut (1976) - I left with the book and did a very bad job of cutting the pages myself. But I used the book extensively for my research paper and felt sorry, but justified for my poor efforts. I wonder if it is still there and if the pages are still ragged from my cuts.

In those days the library had a stack about ceiling height of uncatalogued books as well. I know this because I was working in microforms and someone who had donated a book was eager to see it on the shelf and kept asking about it. Eve Nielsen in catalog heard my plea and gave the book a cut in line so this lady could use the book she had written and donated when she came to do research. It ws a guide to some Swiss records. I loved working in the library.

John said...

Great photos and commentary - I felt like I was there. Thanks ! (Maybe this could be the start of something - anyone else want to capture the essence of their workplace ? (maybe on the NBSS Facebook page)

Nancy said...

You are super dedicated to that work. I had never imagined so many machines existed and all in one place for one(ish) purpose.

Monica Holtsclaw said...

Thanks for sharing all of these photos, it's nice to be able to picture you there. The standing press inserts are incredible. Brilliant! Also, such a wonderful collection of book cloth. I'd love to have ten minutes in that collection armed with a pair of scissors. :)

Paula said...

When is parents' visiting day? Loved your neat and tidy bench, CQ. Right and left brain seem to be cooperating.

Love,
Mom