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How to find library collections, use copying and printing facilities and access library services

Book handling

Poor handling is one of the main external causes of damage and deterioration to a collection.  Damage is cumulative; it can lead to creases, tears, staining and, eventually, loss.  Readers and staff alike have responsibility for the care of the collections.  Good handling will reduce the need for costly repair work. 

It is important to mitigate the risk by following these guidelines: 

  • Have clean hands; do not use hand cream immediately before consulting materials 
  • When working on rare books or archives, use a pencil only 
  • Ask library staff for foam book supports to use with larger or older books
  • Do NOT use adhesive notes 
  • Do NOT trace documents/images 
  • Do NOT touch the image surface of photographs 
  • Do NOT turn down corners to mark pages 
  • Do NOT lick your fingers to turn a page  


In addition:

  • Books that are tightly bound or have leather or parchment bindings should not be opened wider than 120°.
  • Foam book wedges should be used to support these books.  Snake weights should be used to hold pages open if needed. Ask staff for these.
  • Acid-free paper bookmarks should be used so as not to damage pages: a supply of these can be found throughout the library
  • Books should be removed from the shelf one at a time and not by the headcap.  Instead, push the books on either side back leaving the wanted volume free.  Alternatively, reach your hand over the top of the volume and push forward from the back.  
  • Gaps in the shelving should be closed up by repositioning books and bookends.   Books should not be allowed to slump against one another as this can cause damage to the bindings.