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Archives and Special Collections

The Archives of Biddle Law Library preserves, promotes, and provides access to the archives of The American Law Institute (ALI), and the National Bankruptcy Archives (NBA), as well as a collection of rare books, manuscripts, and Penn Law historic records.

Safe Handling Practices For Books

Storage and handling methods have a direct impact on the useful life of collections and the accessibility of information.

Be careful not to pull on the headcap of a book when removing it from the shelf. Instead, there are two alternatives to safely removing a book from the shelf:

  • The first method is to put a finger on top of the pages (rather than on the headcap) and gently tilt the book out.
  • The other method is to slightly push in the books on either side of the desired book, then pull out the desired book by gently grasping it on both sides with the thumb and fingers (or pull the book out by using the textblock as leverage, not the headcap).

This information was taken from the Northeast Document Conservation Centers Preservation Leaflet - Leaflet 4.1: Storage and Handling for Books and Artifacts on Paper. For more information and visuals, click here and scroll to the section Handling Bound Volumes on page 4 and 5.

Identifying Preservation Concerns

BRITTLE ITEMS
  • What is it? 

    • Pages that are easily broken or torn

    • Pages or book covers that crumble

  • What to do?

    • Fill out the preservation form

    • Avoid opening the book(s) or handling the page(s)

    • If the book must be moved, be sure to consult the 'Safe Handling Practices' list above

FOXING
  • What is it?

    • Brown-red stains that are circular or irregular shaped

    • Foxing tends to be evenly dispersed over a page(s)

  • What to do?

MOLD
  • What is it?

    • Spots, fuzz, or discoloration on the book pages, edges, or binding

    • Tacky surface or strong odor

  • What to do? 

PEST DAMAGE
  • What is it? 

    • Powdery deposits

    • Small holes or missing areas of a book(s)

  • What to do? 

    • Fill out the preservation form

    • Avoid touching animal or pest waste material

    • If there is an active infestation, alert Collections Department staff at biddlearchives@law.upenn.edu and quarantine the material in a plastic bag while wearing the proper PPE

PHYSICAL DAMAGE
  • What is it? 

    • Pages that are loose or torn

    • A detached or missing text block

  • What to do?

    • Fill out the preservation form

    • Avoid opening or moving the book(s)

    • Avoid the use of rubber bands, tape, or other adhesives

    • If the book must be moved, consult the 'Safe Handling Practices' above and use cotton 'tape' to prevent further damage.

RED ROT
  • What is it?

    • Deteriorated leather

    • Red powder

  • What to do? 

    • Fill out the preservation form

    • Avoid touching or moving the book(s)

    • Wear nitrile gloves if the material must be handled and follow the guidelines of the 'Safe Handling Practices' above

WATER DAMAGE
  • What is it? 

    • Wet or damp pages/binding

    • Warped book structure or rippled pages

  • What to do?

    • Fill out the preservation form 

    • Avoid rubbing or wiping the book pages or covers

    • If possible, identify water leak source and note this in the form - especially if the leak is still active

    • If there is an active leak, immediately alert Head of Access Services, Lori Rowland - lorirowl@law.upenn.edu and the Facilities Department - Facilities@law.upenn.edu

Further Resources

  • The Northeast Document Conservation Center's Preservation Leaflets are an excellent source of information on a wide variety of preservation topics - click here for more

  • The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts has made a number of resource available online related to preservation and collections care - click here for more