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Two books spanned open with spines touching.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Collection Recovery Methods: Books and Bound Materials

Books and Bound Materials include any books and pamphlets with cloth bindings, leather or vellum bindings, bound manuscripts (paper or vellum), printed books, and albums.

Listed in salvage priority order

Printed books with coated paper
Books with soluble inks and colorants printed on paper
Books with leather, vellum and parchment bindings
Books with stable inks printed on paper


Printed books with coated paper

Recovery Priority during the first 24-48 hours

  • Dry items with coated paper immediately. (If there are too many books to dry within 24 hours, freeze them.)
  • If coated papers are allowed to dry in contact with one another, they will fuse together.
  • Use a thin spatula to gently separate the pages that are beginning to stick together.
  • Do not attempt to separate pages if there is any resistance.
  • Cover books with plastic to prevent partial drying until they can be frozen or salvaged.
  • Keep weakened books intact; do not open text block or remove covers unless needed. Do not tightly compress items.

Freezing Procedures

  1. Keep very wet until ready to freeze or air dry.
  2. If freezing is delayed, quickly pack books in a plastic carton or corrugated box lined with a plastic bag to prevent drying.
  3. Perform triage of wet books. Separate animal skin bindings from cloth and paper bindings.
  4. Place freezer paper or polyester webbing between books to prevent sticking.
  5. Inventory books by call number before packing for freezing. Write the shelving range call numbers on multiple sides of the box for security reasons.
  6. Pack them in separate plastic cartons or corrugated boxes. Animal skin bindings can not be vacuum freeze dried without bindings damage occurring.
  7. Pack books one layer deep, spine down, in a plastic carton or corrugated box.
  8. Pack containers three-quarters full. Fill extra space with crumpled plain paper to support the books.
  9. Pack oversize items flat with freezer paper or polyester webbing between items.
  10. Contact a conservator or preservation specialist about salvage of frozen animal skin bindings.

Air Drying Procedures

  1. Insert freezer paper between the covers and the text blocks of each book to prevent the covers from staining the pages.
  2. After separating pages, place freezer paper between the pages to prevent sticking. Do not over-stress the bindings with excess freezer paper or insert freezer paper deep into the gutter.
  3. Small books with rigid covers can be stood upright and fanned open. Invert books every 8-12 hours to prevent damage to the covers or sewing and to promote even drying.
  4. Oversize books or items with weak covers should be placed flat and opened as far as possible without breaking the spine. Support covers with blocks at a partial opening if the item cannot lay flat.
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Books with soluble inks and colorants printed on paper

Recovery Priority during the first 24-48 hours

  • Immediately dry books, or freeze if there are too many to air dry within the first 24 hours. Ink and colorant bleeding and migration increase with degree of wetness, time, and contact of other materials.
  • Keep weakened books intact; do not open text block or remove covers unless needed. Do not tightly compress items.

Freezing Procedures

  1. Drain excess water and square up text block as much as possible.
  2. Perform triage of wet books. Separate animal skin bindings from cloth and paper bindings.
  3. Place freezer paper or polyester webbing between books to prevent sticking.
  4. Inventory books by call number before packing for freezing. Write the shelving range call numbers on multiple sides of the box for security reasons.
  5. Pack them in separate plastic cartons or corrugated boxes. Animal skin bindings can not be vacuum freeze dried without binding damage occurring.
  6. Pack books one layer deep, spine down, in plastic cartons or corrugated boxes.
  7. Pack containers three-quarters full. Fill extra space with crumpled plain paper to support the books.
  8. Pack oversize items flat with freezer paper or polyester webbing between items.
  9. Contact a conservator or preservation specialist about salvage of frozen animal skin bindings.

Air Drying Procedures

  1. Insert freezer paper between the covers and the text blocks of each book to prevent the covers from staining the pages.
  2. After separating pages, place freezer paper between pages with bleeding ink or colorants. Do not use absorbent interleaving. Do not over-stress the bindings with excess freezer paper or insert freezer paper deep into the gutter.
  3. If a book requires large amounts of interleaving, then it must be fully dried in a fanned position with covers supported by blocks.
  4. Small books with rigid covers can be stood upright and fanned open. Invert books every 8-12 hours to prevent damage to the covers or sewing and to promote even drying.
  5. Oversize books or items with weak covers should be placed flat and opened as far as possible without breaking the spine.
  6. Support covers with blocks at a partial opening if the item cannot lay flat.
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Books with leather, vellum and parchment bindings

Recovery Priority during the first 24-48 hours

  • Immediately freeze if there are too many to air dry withing the first 24 hours.
  • Shrinkage and distortions increase with degree of wetness and the degree of uncontrolled drying.
  • Animal skin becomes very limp when moist and becomes gel-like if left wet for too long.
  • Extremely wet vellum or parchment may be very fragile, so handle gently with support underneath.
  • Keep weakened books intact; do not open text block or remove covers unless needed. Do not tightly compress items.

Freezing Procedures

Do not freeze dry illuminated or gilded volumes.

  1. Drain excess water and square up the book without forcing it into shape.
  2. Wrap freezer paper around the closed book.
  3. Place corrugated board between books of different sizes to maintain rigidity.
  4. Pack books one layer deep, spine down, in plastic cartons or corrugated boxes.
  5. Pack containers three-quarters full. Fill excess space in container with plain, crumpled paper and corrugated board for extra support.
  6. Pack oversize items flat with freezer paper or polyester webbing between items. The shape of the book as it goes into the freezer will become the shape of the book when dried.

Air Drying Procedures

Collection items in this category should be handled by trained preservation staff or conservators.

  1. Insert freezer paper between the covers and the text blocks of each book to prevent the covers from staining the pages.
  2. After separating pages, place freezer paper between pages with bleeding ink or colorants. Do not use absorbent interleaving. Do not over-stress the bindings with excess freezer paper or insert freezer paper deep into the gutter.
  3. If a book requires large amounts of interleaving, it must be fully dried in a fanned position with covers supported by blocks.
  4. Drying small books with rigid covers:
    1. Stand books upright and fan open.
    2. Invert books every 8-12 hours to prevent damage to the covers or sewing and to promote even drying.
  5. Oversize books or items with weak covers:
    1. Place books flat and open as far as possible without breaking the spine.
    2. Support covers with blocks at a partial opening if the item cannot lay flat.
    3. When almost completely dry, close and square up square block as much as possible.
    4. Do not force the book closed. (Remove excess interleaving if the book does not close.)
  6. Books that can be closed:
    1. Wrap spine and covers in spun polyester webbing.
    2. Sandwich books between sheets of corrugated board.
    3. Stack horizontally with several other books of similar size.
    4. Place under a pressing board and weight.
  7. Books that can't be closed:
    1. Wrap spine and covers in spun polyester webbing.
    2. Open books partially in an L-shape with one cover and text block on a flat surface and the other cover upright.
    3. Support the raised cover on the outside using a weight, block, or bookend.
    4. Place corrugated board flat on top of a text block and put a small weight on top.
    5. Flip the book occasionally to flatten the other cover.
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Books with stable inks printed on paper

Recovery Priority during the first 24-48 hours

  • Generally stable.
  • Dry or freeze books within 48 hours.
  • Keep weakened books intact.
  • Do not wipe or force books back into their original shape.
  • Do not open text blocks or remove covers unless needed.

Freezing Procedures

  1. Drain excess water and square up books as much as possible.
  2. Perform triage of wet books. Separate animal skin bindings from cloth and paper bindings.
  3. Place freezer paper or polyester webbing between books to prevent sticking.
  4. Inventory books by call number before packing for freezing. Write the shelving range call numbers on multiple sides of the box for security reasons.
  5. Pack them in separate plastic cartons or corrugated boxes. Animal skin bindings can not be vacuum freeze dried without binding damage occurring.
  6. Pack books one layer deep, spine down, in plastic carton or corrugated box.
  7. Pack containers three-quarters full. Fill extra space with crumpled plain paper to support the books.
  8. Pack oversize items flat with freezer paper or polyester webbing between items.

Air Drying Procedures

  1. Insert freezer paper between the covers and the text block of each book to prevent the covers from staining the pages.
  2. Place thin, absorbent interleaving between sections or pages. Do not over-stress the bindings with excess freezer paper or insert freezer paper deep into the gutter.
  3. If a book requires large amounts of interleaving, it must be fully dried in a fan position, with covers supported by blocks.
  4. Small books with rigid covers can be stood upright and fanned open.
  5. Invert books every 8-12 hours to prevent damage to the covers or sewing and to promote even drying.
  6. Oversize books or items with weak covers should be placed flat and opened as far as possible without breaking the spine; support covers with blocks at a partial opening if the item cannot lay flat.
  7. Interleave with absorbent material; change opening and interleaving as pages dry or as the interleaving becomes wet.
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