Students repair books

Students work on the third floor of the Cullom-Davis Library to restore books. Most repairs involve replacing covers or bindings. Photo by Tessa Armich.
Students work on the third floor of the Cullom-Davis Library to restore books. Most repairs involve replacing covers or bindings. Photo by Tessa Armich.

The third floor of the library is kind of like the third-floor corridor in Hogwarts — filled with secrets and maybe a sorcerer’s stone or two. But, let’s get real. Not many students venture up to the third floor of the library unless they are required for a class or work there.

The third floor is home to the library’s special collections as well as the book restoration services.

“A lot of people don’t know about [the book restoration],” junior graphic design major Anna Fredrick said. “I didn’t know about it until I started [working] two years ago.”

There are several students who work to restore books for the library. Senior sculpture major Sarah Testin said she started out with no experience with book restoration, but was taught by the previous interns.

“Quite a while ago we found it made more sense to have them repair locally and pay our students, rather than send them away to Kansas City or something,” special collections librarian Charles Frey said. “We tend to get better work, we tend to get faster work, and obviously it’s better to distribute the wealth close to home.”

Having in-house restoration is also a way for the library to save money. Frey said books are evaluated on whether the book needs to be fixed or not, along with avoiding restocking books that no one will look at. Rather, they focus their attention on books that are in heavy use or when the book is so poorly made that they know it won’t keep for long.

The Conservator and Coordinator of Preservation Ana Lyra and the students have developed a method of putting these poorly made, expensive books back together in a way that will be longer lasting and will allow them to lay flat.

“It’s pretty tedious, but if you’re looking at, say, once or twice a year replacing a $300 book, tedious is good,” Frey said. “Particularly since the repaired books are stronger than the new books.”

Frey said students do different levels of repair, some doing more in-depth work than others.

“In the past, we’ve had some people go on for master’s degrees in conservation and made a profession out of it,” Frey said. “I think probably almost everyone by the time they leave know a lot more than when they came.”

Students who work at the restoration say they enjoy what they do.

“I’m just constantly learning about new materials and new ways to repair books, [and] there’s always something new we can learn,” Fredrick said.

Testin said she thinks it’s important to have Bradley students helping in restoring books because it improves the treatment of the books in the library when they become more invested in the care of the resources.

“Having us work on the books also helps to keep this trade alive, because I had never really heard of paper restoration or book repair as a career before, but it really is a job that gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment,” Testin said.