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Frequently Asked Questions

How should library books be handled?

The Vassar College Libraries have over a million volumes that are intended to be handled, read, and used for decades and, in many cases, for centuries to come by our students, faculty, and community. In order to protect this magnificent resource we ask that when you use or borrow a book you please consider the following:

  • Do not write or underline in any library book
  • Do not use highlighter in any library book
  • Do not use sticky notes or any other adhesive tabs or marking tools
  • Do not use books in bathtubs or pools
  • Protect books from children and pets
  • Refrain from eating or drinking around books and in the library as can damage books and attract pests
  • Protect books from rain and snow when transporting
  • Use a bookmark rather than folding the corners of pages to hold your spot
  • Remove books from the shelf carefully. Gently push volumes on either side back about an inch and grasp the one you need in the middle of its spine. Do not pull on the top of the spine since this will cause tearing and lead to serious damage.

What do I do if I damage or find a damaged book?

Don’t panic! Despite the precautions listed above book damage does happen. Please bring it to the Circulation Desk at any of the Libraries. Staff there will send it to the Preservation Department for evaluation.

Please do not attempt to fix the book yourself using tape or glue. We have all kinds of evidence of tape damage in the collection—sometimes it's sticky, sometimes the adhesive turns dark yellow and gets very hard, sometimes the carrier falls off and leaves a stain that may have a powdery residue. All are almost impossible to remove. Tape and sticky notes leave a residue that over time may cause permanent damage to materials in our collection and often damage text and paper when removed. It is safer to bag or tie the book to keep the parts together.

What should I do with a wet or moldy book?

Send it to us immediately! Moldy books should first be bagged in a zippered polyethylene bag. Handle moldy items as little as possible.

Books damaged by water can often be successfully salvaged if they are treated right away. Do everything you can to get wet books to the Preservation Department as soon as possible. If we are unavailable, Library staff may plug in the freezer in the conservation lab and place the book into a basket in the freezer. Freezing and even refrigerating stabilizes the condition and keeps the book from getting moldy. (Note to Library staff: Please leave a note or send an email to notify us that you turned the freezer on and that items are waiting for our attention.)

Staff should be vigilant about risks such as mold, pests, chemicals, and biohazards. If there is a suspected high risk involved with handling materials that are returned to the Libraries or are otherwise acquired for our collections, refer to the protocol Handling High-Risk Materials for safety guidelines.

What treatment services does the Preservation Department offer?

The mission of the Preservation Department is to offer the widest range of services possible given available staff and resources. We offer a broad range of repair and conservation options for both books and flat paper, and we create custom enclosures such as boxes and portfolios. Routine operations performed in-house include cleaning, re-backing, re-casing, pamphlet binding, and page repairs. Resurfacing of DVDs/CD-ROMs and creating enclosures for microfilm and other digital media are also available.  If an item cannot be treated in-house we utilize commercial binding and enclosure services.

How long will books be in the Preservation Department?

We strive to repair or enclose items that are being treated in-house in the Preservation Department within 10 business days. If a book is needed by a patron we can usually complete the repair within 2 business days. Any time you need something in a hurry just let us know—we'll do everything we can to help out.

Reclassification and Mending

Because of the volume of items that need special attention (mending or enclosures) and the significant number of reclassified items that we process, existing holdings may take longer to process than new accessions. After an item is mended or enclosed, it must then be labeled, have security added, and be inspected before it can be shelved again. Depending on the volume of work and student staffing levels, the processing time can vary, but we strive to process books within 10 business days of repair or enclosure. These items are stored first on relabeling carts and then on reshelving carts in the marking area and are generally prioritized for processing after all new accessions have been processed.

Can you explain what the various location codes and notes actually mean when they relate to preservation?

There are three location codes used in Sierra to specify that an item is temporarily unavailable because it is being processed by the Preservation Department:

  • G (In Mend): Material is being repaired or enclosed in-house.
  • B (Bindery): Material is to be sent or has been sent out for commercial binding services. These materials are kept on a shelf in the Preservation Department while awaiting shipment to the bindery.
  • R (Tech Services): Material is awaiting additional action or a librarian decision.

In addition to having one of the above location codes, some books may also have a note indicating more specific action, location, or previous treatment notes:

  • Librarian Decision Needed: This note indicates that the item is damaged beyond repair and assessment is needed regarding replacement, enclosure, or de-accession. These items are kept on a shelf in the Preservation Department or in the approvals room in Room 146.
  • Mended [Date] [Initials]: This note indicates that the item has been mended in-house, the month and year it was treated, and the person who treated it.
  • Pam Bound/Four Flap/Box/Laced/CoLibri:
    This note usually follows the “Mended” note and indicates if the item was encapsulated and in which form.
  • Resurfaced [Date] 1x: This note indicates a DVD or CD-ROM has been resurfaced, the month and the year it was treated, and how many times. DVDs and CD-ROMs may be resurfaced only a few times and digital media that remains unplayable after resurfacing will be put on the Librarian Decision Needed shelf in the Preservation Department.