Library binding is a way to increase the life of books and periodicals used in libraries. This is done by sewing the pages in place and by reinforcing the spine for each volume. The goal of library binding is long-term preservation. However, library bound books also benefit library patrons because they ensure that the volume in hand is complete, as well as to make the volumes easier to open and photocopy.
In addition, many libraries re-bind damaged books in library bindings regardless of whether they were originally paperback or hardcover.
Most library binders use a method of bookbinding called oversewing to secure the volumes. Oversewing involves cutting or milling off the spines of the volumes, creating a block of loose pages. Then the loose sheets are combined into small units or signatures, which are secured with overlock stitching. The separate signatures then get sewn together, creating a single text block. Often a piece of linen is glued to the text block spine for further support. The spine of the volume sometimes is rounded and backed to keep the spine from caving in. But if the paper of the volume is too fragile, or the text block is too thick, the spine is left flat. The text block is placed in a sturdy cover or case, with special paper covering the inside covers (Boardway 1993).
The most common cloth used by library binders to cover the boards of the book is buckram coated with acrylic. Acrylic coatings are generally resistant to water, mold, insects, and ultra-violet light. The buckram used is a 100% cotton, bulky fabric designed to withstand wear and tear (Jones 1993). Smaller books may be bound in c-cloth, a lighter weight cloth that may or may not have an acrylic coating. The information about the volume (such as title and call number) are hot-stamped onto the spine. Bound serials are typically all bound in the same color of buckram, in order to indicate the relationship of the volumes.
Library binding is done at a commercial library binding company. Sending books to the library binder is a mass production process. The library will gather and set aside their volumes which they want library bound, and then box and ship off these books to a library binding company. The binding company handles each volume one at a time, and then places all the items from the shipment back into boxes and sends them back to the library.
Jones, Lynn. "Report on the Manufacture of Book Cloth and Buckram." Preservation Planning Program: Managing a Library Binding Program. Jan Merrill-Oldham (ed). Association of Research Library: Washington D.C., 1993.
State of Connecticut Binding Contract as Applied to the University of Connecticut Libraries, Storrs. Preservation Planning Program: Managing a Library Binding Program. Jan Merrill-Oldham (ed). Association of Research Library: Washington D.C., 1993.