Proper Care of Library Books

Shelving and Handling Books

  • Do not leave books on shelves or carts with the foredge down. This damages the spine and joints.
  • Leave books upright and firmly supported on shelf when shelving or retrieving. Use bookends. (Library staff: If there is not one there, get one.)
  • Do not allow books to protrude over the edges of the shelves. They should be set back about 1." Stack oversize books neatly on bottom shelves. They should not be sticking out over the shelf.
  • Never pull a book off the shelf by the headcap. Pull from the spine with your fingers on the boards. Push remaining books together so that they support each other.
  • Before moving compact shelving ranges, check to make sure aisle is clear.
  • Use red string to tie up books with the following types of damage: broken joints, loose boards, broken sewing, detached or partially detached spine.
  • Do not remove shrink-wrap; bring it to Library reference and technical services staff, who have special knives to do this without damaging the wrapped material.
  • Please handle library materials with clean hands.

Processing and Using Library Materials

  • Do not crack open the spine of a tightly bound book. This kind of damage usually cannot be repaired without extensive intervention.
  • Do not use books or journals as a support for writing; this leaves indentations.
  • If you must place books in a pile, put the largest ones at the bottom; do not stack big books on top of small ones. Do not pile books more than 3 or 4 deep.
  • Never stick post-it notes on library materials; they leave an adhesive residue. Use a plain piece of acid-free paper for notes and place markers instead.
  • Do not attach notes or other items to library materials with paper clips or rubber bands. Paper clips cause dents and tears and become rusty; rubber bands turn sticky and then hard (they also contain sulfur, which can cause chemical damage).
  • Do not attempt to "fix" library materials with tape or glue. Most tapes have adhesives which deteriorate with age and can cause damage. They also form a hard edge along which weak papers will break. Many office-type glues turn hard or brown with age, and are very difficult to remove.
  • Do not use ink or ballpoint pen to mark a book, document, or photograph (exception: pens provided by the Library conservator for specific purposes). If an identifying mark must be made, use a No. 2 pencil and write lightly.
  • Do not use self-adhesive labels on leather covers or on pre-1860 cloth or paper covers, or on highly decorated modern covers. Use an acid-free flag, or consult the conservator for an alternative.
  • Always use acid-free envelopes, boxes, paper, etc. for storage or enclosure of library materials.


  • Follow Library photocopying policy when making copies for yourself or others.
  • Do not photocopy rare books, brittle books or documents, colored plates, fold-out sheets, or books with broken spines or loose pages.
  • Use one of the copiers designed for books when copying bound materials. Copy one page at a time, with the rest of the book supported off the platen with one hand.
  • Do not defeat the purpose of the copier's design by opening the book flat on the glass. Do not press down on the spine of the book when copying.