Hello, new job!

In September, I had the luck of landing a part-time job at Simmons College’s Beatley Library, as the book mending and repair student worker. It’s been a great experience already. (And many thanks to Jillian and Judy for allowing me to write about those experiences here!) Because there’s no preservation librarian at Beatley, the book repair unit is a unit of one—me—which gives me quite a bit of freedom. For some people, I’m sure that could be unnerving, but I’ve actually enjoyed the fact that I’ve been able to just dive right in.

I started by examining the repair supplies doing a survey of the backlog (around 100 books), grouping items by the types of repairs they needed. The decision-making assignments in my summer class proved especially helpful here. Once that was taken care of, I selected a few books to start working on, prioritizing by (1) items that I thought I could get through relatively quickly and (2) items that seemed like they would be in high demand. The result of this was that by the start of my third shift, I had several books that had dried and could be returned to circulation.

My workbench at the new job, after some reorganization and cleaning.

My workbench at the new job, after some reorganization and cleaning.

Above the main work area, part of the backlog I inherited.

Above the main work area, part of the backlog I inherited.

The rest of the bench, to the left of the main workspace. Down toward the end are a few presses, some press boards, and a paper cutter.

The rest of the bench, to the left of the main workspace. Down toward the end are a few presses, some press boards, and a paper cutter.

In my next shift, I spent some time digging through the supplies further. Some of the items had been on the bench and therefore immediately obvious—for instance, Tyvek and other book-repair tapes (for both recasing and rebacking). I wasn’t thrilled by the idea of working with these materials, and I figured I would suggest improvements to the stock after I had some work under my belt. But I later found wheat starch, Japanese tissue, endpapers, methyl cellulose, and a bit of book cloth (even if it is buckram)—and I’m not ashamed to say that I was genuinely excited by the discovery. I can’t say I was sorry to see those tapes go; it was painful to have to use book repair tape and PVA to fix loose pages, knowing that before long, those same books will be back on my desk for additional mending as a result of those very repairs.

After that initial bout of simple, speedy repairs, I settled into some rebackings. There are lots of those in the queue, and I think they’re rather fun—I guess I find a strange pleasure in taking a book apart in order to fix it.

The first rebacking I finished in my work at Simmons. I was pleased.

The first rebacking I finished in my work at Simmons. I was pleased.

Another rebacking in progress. I finished this one up on the next shift.

Another rebacking in progress. I finished this one up on the next shift.

This is definitely shaping up to be a hectic semester, but I’ll continue posting about my progress at work (and other things!) as I have the time. I know I still have a lot to learn.

Comments

  • I am very excited to read about the work you are doing. Your organization, attention to detail,and enthusiasm for the process are very engaging.

    clareobdoyleOctober 4, 2011
  • Lovely! It is interesting to see Huxley’s work being repared by hand, given that in his dystopian future, someone would have been bred for such a job!

    lestaretOctober 6, 2011

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