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Identifying Damaged Materials to Send to Preservation

This guide should assist staff and student assistants in identifying circulating and other material that needs repair or rebinding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When we retrieve material from the stacks for loaning to patrons or patrons at other institutions and we discover it to be damaged in some way, should it be loaned out first and sent to preservation on return? How would we make this determination?

A: It is best if it is repaired first. The determination would include how badly damaged it is. If it is falling apart it needs to come to Preservaton first; if it can't be fixed, we will put it in an in-house box. Flag the item a "Priority 1". If for some reason it is not appropriate for a box and cannot be fixed easily in-house, we will contact you and let you know.

Items with minor wear-and-tear may go out only if a notation is put into the item record of the book first, and the "send to Preservation" option is put in the IMESSAGE field so that it comes to us upon its return.

Q: How do we assess the condition of books in boxes? How do we decide whether to send these to your attention?

A:  If it is in a box that is not a publisher's box, it is in a box because nothing else can be done to it. In general this does not need to be assessed further unless it has mold, evidence of insects, or some unusual damage. If the box has been damaged and it needs a new box please send to us.

Q: We would like to get a better understanding about when to send books with spine issues. Do we send them when the spine is only slightly loose or torn, or only if the spine is in really bad shape?

A: Anything that is torn needs to be fixed. Sometimes spine headcaps are not as firm as they used to be, without being loose or torn -- if not torn, they can probably return to the stacks "as is". A good guideline is if something is actually torn. A slit along the edge of the spine is considered torn, even though it may not be in really bad shape.

Q: What about circulating trade paperbacks (not mass markets)? At what point should they be sent to Preservation?

A: Once again, a good guideline is when something is torn. If it is badly beat up, edges curling, it could be stiffened or rebound. If the covers get torn off or if the text block is broken it might be rebound commercially.

Q: What about mass-market materials that come to Preservation?

A: Mass market paperbacks are generally of poor stock and have inner margins that do not allow many treatment options. Sometimes a replacement copy is the cheapest solution. Send to Preservation if it looks beat-up and worn, or if something is torn.

Q: What about pages cut or damaged?

A: They need to come to Preservation. The Preservation Unit can usually mend these paper tears, for instance, using an ultrathin, non-acidic transparent paper. Sometimes page replacements need to be obtained. Preservation can usually acquire these through Interlibrary Loan.  A few pages can be tipped-in, in-house. More than ten pages need to be rebound commercially.

Q: At what point do we pull a book or series of books that have not circulated but are damaged?

A: In general, as a last priority. If it is more than just a few volumes, consult with Preservation first.


Most damaged materials are identified at the circulation desk or during the process of preparing materials for re-shelving. At the same time, there are also new materials that come in from booksellers "shelf ready" that may need additional treatment before going to the libraries shelves, and older materials new to the collection that need treatment. These can also be sent to us.

Books with MOLD, that are WET or MOIST, or have signs of INSECT INFESTATION should be put in PLASTIC ZIPLOC BAGS and sent to Preservation immediately!!!

If for some reason (such as delivery timing at West Campus) the book cannot be sent to the Preservation Unit right away (that day) it can be frozen and sent later.