As a circulating special collection in the Wych Park branch of Megapolis Public Library, we anticipate considerable wear and tear on the graphic novels that comprise our mental health as represented through graphic novels collection. Due to projected heavy circulation and less than optimal conditions, our novels may deteriorate faster than those held in libraries optimized for the preservation of printed and bound materials. Books should, ideally, be stored away from direct sources of light, in spaces kept around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and at a relative humidity of 50%.[1] However, we heat, cool, and light the building with the comfort of our patrons in mind, and are therefore unable to maintain ideal conditions for books and other materials.

Most graphic novels are also soft cover, which will likely decrease the lifespan of the materials. Circulating materials experience wear and tear from use. Further, certain practices integral to the overall integrity of our collection — including inserting anti-theft tagging to all books, as well as “stamping and marking books”[2] — may adversely affect individual books (despite preventing theft). Despite the problems associated with use, and occasional misuse, of materials, access is paramount to our mission as a library; further, it is paramount to the mission of our mental health graphic novel collection.[3]

Wych Park Branch is unable to allocate significant funds for preservation, a common problem among public libraries in the United States.[4] As a result of continuing budget crises, we prefer to focus on collection building; we tend to perform simple repairs on materials, then replace them when it becomes necessary. While it is true that “Hardcover books tend to be the most robust of the paper-based materials” due to the way in which they are constructed,[5] we do not plan, except in exceptional circumstances, to re-bind our paperback graphic novels; doing so would prove cost-ineffective for all but the most limited-edition works, as “a replacement may be purchased for little more than the binding would cost,” and, always important due to our emphasis on access to the collection, such rebound works tend “not to have much visual appeal on the shelf.”[6] We maintain several policies aimed at preventing wear and tear while our books are on shelf at the library. Our pages are trained to shelve books loosely, and will shift if books are shelved too tightly.[7] While this can be a time-consuming chore, it helps maintain the integrity of our collection.

Wych Park Branch maintains those materials necessary to the basic repair of damaged bindings and torn covers. We make an effort to laminate all softcover books, thus extending their covers’ lifespans somewhat as well as ensuring that they will continue to look appealing on the shelf. While we would prefer to buy only those “materials printed on alkaline paper,” as suggested by Susan L. Tolbert (1997), we must purchase our graphic novels on whatever paper they have been printed. We maintain a healthy supply of library binding tape as well as glue; we use the recommended “PVA glue (white school glue)”.[8] The staff members assigned to book repair keep abreast of current innovations and technologies, and have attended American Library Association-sponsored programs, including the September 2011 webinar “Book Repair Basics for Libraries,”[9] which have consistently proven helpful in maintaining our collection’s integrity. We have also made an effort to avoid certain destructive behaviors, including that of the “‘first opening,’” wherein “when one first opens a book, to ‘crack’ the spine,” thus creating a weak area primed for further degradation.[10] While we cannot control our patrons’ actions once the book leaves our building, we can ask that our materials be treated with care so many others can enjoy them.

Our preservation budget (such as it is) goes almost entirely to laminate, glue, and tape. We maintain a fund for the purchase of new copies of books that have degraded to the extent that they can no longer be circulated, and our circulation staff is trained to check for damage when materials are checked out as well as when they are checked back into the library. As always, our priority is access to materials.

[1] Ogden, S. “Temperature, Relative humidity, light and air quality.” Retrieved from,-relative-humidity,-light,-and-air-quality-basic-guidelines-for-preservation

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (2013). “Caring for your Treasures.” Retrieved from

[2] Cloonan, M. V. (2009). Conservation and preservation of library and archival materials. Encyclopedia of library and information science. P. 1259. Retrieved from

[3] Please see “Use and Users,” “Subject Access,” “Collections,” and “About the Collection” for additional information on our mission.

[4] Driedger, K., & Mika, J. (2010). The preservation needs of Michigan’s public libraries. Library & Archive Security, 23(79). Retrieved from

[5] Northeast Document Conservation Center. (2012). Storage and handling: Storage and handling for books and artifacts on paper. Retrieved from

[6] Driedger, K., & Mika, J. (2010). The preservation needs of Michigan’s public libraries. Library & Archive Security, 23(79). 93. Retrieved from

[7] Tolbert, S. L. (1997). Preservation in American public libraries: A contradiction in terms? Public Libraries, 26(4). 238.

[8] Lopushok, M. J. (2003). Book repair as a money-saving strategy. Colorado Libraries, 29(3), 18. Retrieved from

[9] American Library Association. (2011). Book repair basics for libraries. Retrieved from

[10] Lopushok, M. J. (2003). Book repair as a money-saving strategy. Colorado Libraries, 29(3), 17. Retrieved from

~ Created for LIS 501 ~

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