Since I started working at a junior high I have seen my fair bit of book problems. Well-loved books that eventually require a little TLC in hope that it will survive one more school year, or at least until the budget allows me to buy another copy as its replacement. However, there are also the run-of-the-mill book problems, typically associated with textbooks. A moldy book here. A book beyond repair because its pages have been re-inserted with tape and glue that eventually it looks like it’ll explode. But since the beginning of 2016 I have managed to witness some even more interesting books in distress.
January ending I was taking my customary leg stretching walk through the school hallways, and I happened to notice a couple of boys hastily trying to wipe up a mess in front of their locker. Thinking nothing of it, I kept walking, but one of the boys called to me and tried to explain that his friend’s textbook was a victim in the mess – science experiment exploding the locker – ew. It was a mix of Jell-o and whatever concoction they decided to come up with. I took the textbook and brought it to my back office and started trying to figure out a way to salvage it. I knew the green dye from the watered-down goo was not going to disappear, but I could try to get the pages not to dry into chunks or have a bad case of mold set in. I have managed to allow the book to dry, not without some issues: the book has a distasteful odor that I’m trying to figure out whether the book is still worth saving, or should I cut my losses. Fortunately, the pages weren’t too badly destroyed however the one side of the book has expanded because of the moisture and new folds in the pages.
Earlier today, I had a student admit that after leaving his book on the backseat of a parents vehicle, he found it with some moisture damage. Nothing too terrible, but after closer inspection I realized that it wasn’t water damage – it was oily. I’m still trying to figure out how to salvage it, I should hope it won’t be difficult.
This is probably the dirtiest part of my job. Book repair is the most time consuming aspect of it. I have a small collection of textbooks and novel studies that are awaiting for repair, because it’s not as simple as using a semi-automatic system to catalogue new books. This requires patience, and much as this link can be super handy for some situations, nobody not even library school can prepare you for what to do with books that have been handed in smelling abundantly of curry, or sopped in an oily residue.