Book repair with Natasha

by Michele Brown

We rely on students to help repair our circulating book collection and starting in the fall semester, we’ve been lucky to have Natasha Rao working with us. Natasha is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is from Princeton, New Jersey, and is hoping to major in both English and Natural Resources.

Natasha also enjoys photography and hiking, and she is learning to fly planes. She told us she is tremendously enjoying her first year at Cornell, and loves working with book repair! We are happy to have her help.

While rare books receive specialized treatment that can take many hours, repair of circulating books emphasizes speed and efficiency. Our book repair person works at a dedicated bench with pre-cut materials close at hand.

Most books needing repair are identified by Access Services staff when the books are returned to the library. When the books arrive in the conservation lab they are first examined to see if they are candidates for the Rare Books collection. These are pulled out and placed on a truck for review by the curator of rare books and manuscripts. Brittle books are also pulled out and sent to the Brittle Books Coordinator.  If a book needs to be resewn, it is  sent to the Commercial Binding department.

Books that will undergo  book repair are sorted into types of repair (full, half and partial—more on book repair at Cornell at later time– and shelved accordingly). Loose flyleaves are reattached, back linings are cleaned off, and the original spine is tucked into the boards.

Here, Natasha removes the boards of a book she will repair.








Then, she cleans the spine.







Next, she sews cloth hinges into the inner joints. Then, she will apply new cloth and paper linings, and use a cloth strip to repair the case. The new cloth hinges are glued across the joints.


If the original spine is not salvageable she will print a new label using a lab computer.

We are very lucky to have such a talented freshman student, and we look forward to working with Natasha for several more years.

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