Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Conjuring Pages from Thin Air

One of the more unusual tasks Preservation Services handles for the library is replacing pages in books. It’s an unfortunate truth that pages from library books occasionally get damaged or disappear. Sometimes this is accidental…I’ve seen pages that were torn or gnawed on by a pet. Sometimes it is intentional, with pages torn or cut out for personal use or simply as acts of vandalism (please don't do this to library books!).

Fortunately, Preservation Services can miraculously make these missing and damaged pages reappear! Well, sort of. If a large number of pages are damaged, we sometimes just have to replace the entire book. However, if only a few pages are missing we have a pretty great solution to replace only the needed pages. Here's an example of the page replacement process in action:

Here's a book with the corner ripped off of a few pages. The damage isn't extensive, but it does mean some of the text from those pages is missing. Other than these pages, the book is in good condition, so there's no need replace the entire volume.

The first step in the replacement workflow is to order the same book through inter-library loan, using Borrow Direct or DartDoc. We make sure to get the exact same edition so the pages will be identical. Here are those same pages in the borrowed book, still intact:

Then we scan the pages we need from the borrowed book, do some cropping and color correction of the image, and print out the scanned pages onto acid-free, alkaline buffered paper. This ensures that the new pages won't cause acidic degradation when inserted into our book.

We cut the old, damaged pages out of our book (please note, we are trained professionals; please do not attempt this at home on library books or your own books of value!). Then we trim the newly printed pages and "tip them in" to our original book. Tipping in simply means gluing the pages into the book, using a very thin line of PVAc glue along the spine edge of the paper (see slightly blurry glue line example below).

Here's our book, with the new pages tipped in and ready to go. It's almost like it was never damaged!

Of course, we don’t replace missing pages without careful consideration of the context. Even if they were severely damaged, we wouldn’t cut pages out of a rare or valuable book to replace them with scanned facsimiles. In a case like that, we would much more likely leave the original pages and add printed scans of another copy to the book’s housing, so people could read the content on the facsimile while still seeing the original pages of the book. But for heavily used circulating materials, this is a pretty nifty solution to a common library problem!

Written by Helen Bailey.

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