Handling Collection Material
One of the most important aspects of preservation is the development of handling practices that will further the longevity of the collections. Observation of the book as a structure along with its relative condition provides insight to the physical strengths and weaknesses of a particular volume. Appropriate handling will result in safe, long term use of an original.
Our book collection is stored on movable shelving units. Over time, movement may cause a book to shift slightly toward the front edge of a shelf. One should be especially aware of any indication of movement along an aisle, which may indicate a book has shifted sufficiently to drop from its location. It is recommended these shelves be moved no more than two units at a time; allowing staff to adequately observe the rows of books as they move.
The units should be separated to their widest point to provide room necessary for safe movement up and down the aisle without damage to bindings by abrasion. When moving several books, always use a cart. Carts may fit safely inside an aisle, or at the end of the open aisle.
The book block is made up of pages grouped together and attached by sewing or glue, supported between covers. Some book bindings deteriorate as a direct result of faulty materials or methods. Certain structures are unsuited for books of a certain size, or the use it may receive. The premature deterioration of any or several component materials or structural elements can lead to the breakdown of the whole binding.
The following is an outline of recommended steps for safe retrieval of books from our collection. Although some steps may seem elementary, basic rules are most often those easily overlooked. As a rule of thumb, it is important to let keen observations about a volume dictate its requirements for handling, and not let assumptions about a book dictate what the structure is capable of handling.
1. Use pencil only for documentation when retrieving, inventorying, or shifting books.
2. Make no assumptions about the condition of a book. Before removing a book from the shelf, evaluate its size and whether the binding is intact. Be aware of loose or deteriorated cloth or leather on the covers.
3. Remove a book from a full shelf by gently pushing a few books toward the back of the shelf on either side, leaving the selected book free to be grasped on each side with one hand. An alternate method is to reach toward the front of the book block and gently pull the book toward the aisle. A tipping motion may be helpful, but only if the binding is intact. Do not remove a book from the shelf by pulling on the headcap.
4. Place a book dummy in the space once occupied by the book, or close the gap by gently shifting the books closed and securing with the suspended bookend.
5. Hold the book with both hands, grasping around the binding and front edges of the cover. Do not cradle the book inside the elbow or against the body.
6. Check the book for ease of opening by placing the book in the palm of the hand and gently lifting the front cover. Do not force a book open. Use the book at the angle to which it may easily be used; often, pages will not open past a 30% angle.
7. Place the book on a cart to check for information. When transporting several books to a patron, use a cart. Carry single books to the reading room in a flat position.
8. When shifting a large volume of books, two people are always required. Remove books one at a time, and place on a cart. Make certain the end book of each row (shelf or cart) is supported in an upright position.
9. When moving oversized folios, two people are always required. Place flat for transport.