Gothenburg city librarians share tips about proper care.
When books are returned to Gothenburg Public Library in tatters or spattered with pop, the librarians there don’t bat an eye.
They’ve heard about every story under the sun about what has happened to damaged books.
“Someone spilled something or left a book out in the rain,” said adult services assistant director Marg Dillon. “Once in awhile, their dog has chewed it up.”
Assistant Connie Hilderbrand said one book was found in a street gutter while children’s librarian Linda Swan said sometimes books are returned with scribbles in them.
Hilderbrand said the majority are spilled or chewed upon or lost on vacation.
“And most have to be discarded,” Dillon said.
Having to throw away books is costly these days, the librarians said, noting that new hardbacks are priced around $29 with best sellers costing about $33.
Large-print books, which are more in demand with aging baby boomers, cost a minimum of $33.
Although public libraries receive a discount on materials, the price of books continues to rise, according to library director Mary Koch.
At the same time, she said mass production has brought about declining quality which means most books don’t hold together as well. Paperbacks have even less longevity.
“They skimp on glue and don’t stitch them as well,” Koch said.
The bottom line is that the librarians find themselves repairing more books.
Prevalence of damaged books happens more with children’s publications because children are still learning how to care for them responsibly, the librarians said.
“A lot of books are left in doctor’s offices,” Mary said, “but they’re pretty good about sending them back to us.”
Dillon said badly damaged books that are popular are often replaced.
Volunteers used to repair books once or twice weekly but now all the librarians take turns using special glue, tape, wax paper and a book press to mend their product.
If a book should fall apart in the hands of a patron, the librarians warned against self repair because of the specialized tools and ingredients needed as well as the knowledge of how to correctly repair books.
“We’d appreciate it if you tell us if the book is damaged in some way,” Koch said.
All of the librarians have attended book repair workshops.
There, Hilderbrand said one of the things she learned is that by opening and smoothing sections of pages, a book will last longer.
Swan tells children how to care and be responsible for books during Story Hour, a reading program for preschool-aged youngsters.
She shares a book called Mr. Wiggle’s Book in which a green worm shares the do’s and don’ts of caring for books.
“For the most part, kids really do take care of their books and end up telling their parents how to take care of them too,” Swan said.
With the sluggish economy, she said many readers who used to buy books now check them out of the library.
“For that reason, I think there’s more wear and tear,” Swan said, noting that’s even more reason to take care of books.
Parting words from the librarians were: “Be nice to books so others can enjoy them too.”