PROFILE: Student Library Worker Gives Books Special Care

The book Slang and Euphemism looked like it was a popular pick at Langsam Library. The spine of the book – the section of the book cover that’s viewed from the stacks – was looking a little worse for wear, and the cloth was pulling away from the book corners. That’s why it made its way to a different stack from its home in Langsam, and into the hands of University of Cincinnati senior Jessica Justice.

Justice is one of six UC student workers who repair books in University Libraries’ Department of Conservation, Binding and Processing, located in Langsam Library. Damaged books are brought to this department where they are first evaluated by Conservation Student Supervisor Jim Liddle. After he “flags” the books for the repairs that are needed, the students can choose their projects.

“We do around 27 different types of book repairs, so depending on the color of the flag, the students will know what repair is needed,” says Conservation Technician Patrick Schmude. To name a few examples, the restorations could involve reinserting loose pages, spine repairs or building enclosures that keep smaller books from getting lost on the shelves. As the students build their skills, they can perform the more complicated mending, Liddle says.

Justice has been working in conservation for three years. “There are a lot of different things that we can do here, so when you get a little bored with one task, you can switch and work on something else,” says the sociology major from Canal Winchester, Ohio. “Earlier this morning, I did Cohen covers, which is basically putting a skin over a book cover so it doesn’t get worn.”

By afternoon, it was time to work on the repairs for Slang and Euphemism, a slang dictionary authored by Richard Spears. She starts by cutting away the worn out spine, exposing the binding of the book’s pages. Then, with the proper measurements, she builds a hollow paper tube which will support the repaired spine. After selecting cloth that matches the cover of the book, she measures and cuts the cloth that’s used to cover the new spine piece. After cleaning the original spine, she uses adhesive to put the repaired spine and its new support back in place.

Applying the advhesive

Applying the advhesive

Using her paintbrush, she then dabs adhesive on the tattered book corners and smoothes the cloth back into place. After spending some time in the book press, Slang and Euphemism will be sent back to its proper place in the library.

Justice likes the work and the regular work hours, which leave her free on nights and weekends for her extracurricular activities. As a member of the UC winter color guard, practices will be picking up as the guard prepares for competition in the Tristate circuit. The Bearcat Band member also plays oboe for concert band and flute for the pep band during the winter quarter.

Justice also is a member of the national honorary band sorority, Tau Beta Sigma, and is a member of Students of Sociology (SOS).

Jessica places the repaired book in the book press.

Jessica places the repaired book in the book press.

Now that she has gained new skills in repairing library books, she says it’s expertise that she could have used in high school. “Back in high school and middle school, you’d be issued books and then if there was damage to them when you gave them back, you had to pay for it. Now, I know how I could have fixed some of the problems my books had, so I could have saved the money!”



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