Useful tips for handling library books

Every time we touch a book we either help to preserve it or help destroy it. The way material is handled is among  the main threats to library materials.  How do we handle these items does make a difference. Everyone is responsible to handle library materials carefully to safeguard library materials for future users. Mishandling affects the physical operation of a book.

Library materials are available for use by all students, faculty and staff. It is important that you be aware that there are certain ways that you can use these materials that will significantly prolong their shelf life.

There are several things we can do to help care for the Libraries materials.

  • Always handle library materials with clean, dry hands and have a clean area to use the book. Remember that whatever is on your hands (dirt, food residue, lotions) will be on the book once you have handled it. Fingerprints are often indelible.


  • Never pull a headcap.



  • Removing the book from the shelf by gripping on both sides of the spine at the middle of the book (push in the neighboring book on both sides to get a good grip), instead of tugging at the top of the spine



  • Please support book spines and covers when holding books open.



  • Please do not “dog ear” a page or acidic inserts to bookmark pages



  • Do use bookmarks that are thin, clean, non-acidic, and will not
    damage or distort bindings



  • Do not mark or highlight library materials. Don’t mark books with pens, pencils, or high-lighters, since all three will erode the paper over time. When taking notes near books, it’s safest to use a pencil, since an accidental pencil mark in the book can be more easily removed than ink.



  • Do not use post-it notes, paperclips, or rubber bands on library materials. Mark places in books with a piece of paper, not a paper-clip (which can rust or crimp the page) or Post-it Note (the residue glue is harmful), or by folding back a page (which will cause the page corner to break over time, the more brittle the paper, the more quickly the break). Don’t use rubber bands or string to tie together a book that has a loose or detached cover as both can cut into the pages and will actually damage a fragile cover. Instead use a flat, soft cotton ribbon. Not using self-adhesive tape, any kind of “leather dressing,” and/or glue on books. Take notes on a separate sheet of paper. Do not underline or write in library materials.



  • Do not force a book to lie open to 180 degrees ; instead, prop up the covers of an opened book to decrease the opening angle. Support the book while reading so the pages are not forced open any further than necessary to read. Open new books carefully and slowly. Do not force them to open too far.



  • Photocopy gently. Avoid pressing a book flat when photocopying, again to prevent damaging the spine which structurally holds the book together. When photocopying book pages, take care not to wrinkle or crumple pages. If a book is bound so that it resists being pressed flat, don’t force it – settle for a less than perfect image of the page you are copying.



  • Do not expose library materials to water, which can cause deformation and staining



  • Please avoid eating and drinking near library materials. Food attracts paper-eating insects, and spills cause permanent stains as well as encouraging the growth of mildew. Drink, food, and smoke are all bad for books.



Thank you helping us take care of University of Malaya Library’s collections.


  1. Adcock, Edward P.,(ed.). IFLA principles for the care and handling of library Retrieved May, 15, 2015 from
  2. Palmer, Suzy Szasz (2004). Preservation perspectives : book handling. Kentucky Libraries , 68 (2), 20-21. Retrieved May 16, 2015, from the EBSCO Discovery Service database.
  3. Library websites.


Zaharani Aiyub
Head, Cataloging and Metadata Division
University of Malaya Library
25 May 2015.

About Zaharani Aiyub

  • As Head, Cataloging and Metadata Division, my primary responsibilities are quality control of the bibliographic records to ensure the adherence to the international standards and provide accurate information and efficient intellectual access and retrieval to materials for catalog users; and also perform original descriptive and subject cataloging for various library materials in a variety of languages and subject fields.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s