Proper Handling of Books, Documents, and Photographs

General preservation guidelines outlined in this video

Proper handling of books and paper items is an essential part of preservation.

  1. Handle books and paper items (including photographs) as little as possible. The more a book or paper item is handled, the greater the likelihood of damage to the item.
  2. Do not hurry.
  3. Keep pens and sharp items away from books or paper items.
  4. Use pencils for note taking; ink from pens may cause permanent damage.
  5. Do not use paperclips, sticky notes, or rubber bands.
  6. Do not eat or drink around books or paper items.
  7. Before touching items:
    1. If a photograph is in a protective sleeve, leave the photograph in the sleeve for protection during research.
    2. Determine whether your hands are properly protected. Books and paper items are usually more safely handled by clean bare hands. If a photograph is not in a sleeve or if it must be removed from the sleeve, gloves should be worn.
    3. When using gloves, be sure they are clean and change them as often as necessary.
    4. When not using gloves, hands should be clean and washed regularly, about every hour. Hand lotion should not be used.
    5. Don’t touch eyes, nose, hair, etc. with hands, including gloved hands.
    6. Remove jewelry, name badges, buckles, or loose clothing that may damage the book or paper item.
    7. Examine the book or paper item carefully and learn its strengths and weaknesses. Be wary as there may be internal weakness or weak repairs that are not obvious to the naked eye. Documents will be better handled in a folder or clear polyester enclosure.
    8. Items in folders should be handled on the sides so that documents will not slide out the sides.
    9. Get help if the book or paper item is too large, heavy, or awkward to handle on your own.
    10. Discuss each person’s role before handling the item.
    11. If you will be moving a book or paper item from one place to another, plan where the item will be placed. Prepare a place ahead of time to receive the item. Ensure that this place is clean.
    12. Plan your route. Ensure the pathway is clear of debris; be sure all doors/elevators will be open, etc.
  8. When lifting items:
    1. Use both hands if necessary.
    2. Carry only the number of books that can be comfortably held in both hands.
    3. When selecting a book from a shelf, do not pull the book off of the shelf by its headcap. Instead, if there is room above the book, reach over the top of the book and pull back from the fore edge. If there is no room above the book, push the two books on either side of the desired book back slightly on the shelf and take your book off of the shelf by the middle ofits spine.
    4. After removing books from shelves, readjust bookends to ensure the other shelved books have proper support.
  9. When moving or working with books or paper items:
    1. Support all books or paper items while in transit by making use of a carrying tray (for small items), rigid supports (for flat items), or a cart (for heavy or large items or for multiple items).
    2. No part of the item(s)item should protrude beyond the edges of the container or cart.
    3. Lay books and paper items flat, as this is their most stable position.
    4. Books and paper items should never be placed directly on the floor.
    5. Never slide books or paper items across a table or across any surface that might abrade them.
    6. To avoid abrasion; use foam core, tissue paper, polyethylene padding, clean cotton flannel, etc. to pad an item.
    7. Avoid walking backwards. Make sure you can see clearly in front of you at all times.

For more videos like this, go to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ Church History page.

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