I have learned quite a bit working as a library assistant, including several useful tips for book enthusiasts. Interestingly, the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes at libraries (and other book related institutions) is astounding. When we check out books, we do not consider the amount of care it takes to process and care for thousands if not millions of books every year. Hours can be spent on laborious repairs which take merely seconds to undo. Caring for library books is an important aspect of being a patron and utilizing public property. The following tips can also be very useful for the usability and prolongation of the lifespan of your personal and loaned books.
Breaking in Your Book
“Breaking in” your book is a technique used particularly for new books (or books which have never been used); this technique helps the book’s spine to “stretch” and allows the pages to lie more flatly upon use. Gently apply pressure to the inner hinge (on both sides) with your thumbs or pointing and index fingers. Rub vertically along the inside of the cover nearest to the spine until the book cover begins to lay flat (be careful if the binding is very stiff). Continue to do this throughout the book on either side, every few pages, until you reach the middle of the book.
Storing your books in a cool and dry place is paramount to their lifespan. Avoid placing books in a humid environment or in spaces where the temperature changes drastically. Leaving your books in the car, particularly during warm seasons, will often cause cracked spines and/or cause the glue’s binding to separate from the pages. If your books are printed on acid paper, then leaving them in warm places will accelerate the pace at which the pages dry up and crack. Additionally, using Goo Gone (only for personal books) to dissolve sticky substances works miracles on most covers (be careful to avoid to pages and cloth covers).
If you are a reader who is hard on your books and would like your books to survive multiple readings and years of use, then choosing a higher quality book is probably the best option. Finding a book with good quality paper, well-constructed covers, and a strong binding is essential. For example, Penguin Classics are affordable and perfect for the average reader; but if you want your books to look tip-top in their old age, with frequent usage, then choose a different copy.
Keeping the Book in Shape
Creasing your book down the center without breaking in your book and applying pressure to the spine in order to flatten it will often result in a cracked hinge. Unless the book has a sewn binding, a somewhat gentle touch is in the best interest for your book. Additionally, when you are storing books in boxes, it is usually best to either stack them on top of each other or place them vertically with their spines facing down. When you are shelving oversized books, be careful not to store them on their spine allowing the textblock to hang down.
If you are the type of person who likes finely detailed projects, then making small repairs to your books should not be a big problem. A cracked hinge or loosened cover can often be easily repaired with a paint brush and clear, non-acidic glue (something like Mod Podge will do the trick). Tears in the pages or near the inner hinge may be reinforced with some hinge tape. Basic repair items can be found through a book protection vendor. You can also google “DIY book repairs” and watch detailed tutorials.