Cleaning books and documents

Keeping material clean prolongs its useful life. Surface dirt is evidence that crucial aspects of collection management are not being carried out effectively. Low use and lack of regular housekeeping may allow dust to accumulate in collections. Such evidence may be taken as a sign that the collection is little used and little valued, and therefore of little significance to the organisation and its user constituency. The librarian or archivist may be well aware of the collection’s significance, but if this is not evident to others there is a risk that it may be considered a disposable asset. It is vital that appropriate collection care measures are taken and are seen to be taken.

This booklet from the British Library Preservation Advisory Centre booklet provides guidance on simple dry cleaning methods for removing surface dirt from bound volumes and unbound papers. This can normally be undertaken by library/archive staff and volunteers who are not professional conservators. However, some of the techniques described should only be undertaken after training by an accredited conservator, or under their supervision, and these are indicated in the text.

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Date created: 2011

Author: Caroline Bendix, Alison Walker

Publisher: British Library Preservation Advisory Centre