Preservation on the Cheap


Resources under $100 to help maintain your collection without breaking the bank

PDF version of this guide is also available (202 KB).

(Materials discussed below can generally be found at Gaylord unless otherwise specified.)


Adhesive: Norbond liquid plastic adhesive or ph Neutral White Adhesive is recommended when you need to “tip-in” a single page that has come out of a book, paste on a call number label, etc.
Price: Comes in different sized containers, ranging from $3-$60.

Blades: it is always good to keep extra blades on hand for your cutting tools. Cutting tools are dangerous when they are dull and they become difficult to use.
Price: box of 12 approximately $10.

Blotting paper: a handy item when working with adhesives. Sometimes bottles tip over and a mad dash is made to find paper towels or old newspaper to absorb the spill. In the meanwhile the liquid is creating damage. Blotting paper is 100% high alpha cellulose neutral PH and quickly absorbs spills on contact.
Price: five large sheets for about $20.

Book/Document Covers: can be used to prolong the shelf life of a book or document. Wrapping a book that has “Red Rot” in a plastic book cover allows use of the material without leaving as much residue on the user’s hands. Putting fragile documents in a clear plastic sleeve gives them added support and protection, while still enabling easy viewing. Polyester, polypropylene, and polyethylene are three types of plastic suitable for covering books and/or storing paper objects. Thickness varies from 1 to 5 mil and can be purchased in rolls or precut sizes.
Price: ranges from $30-80.

For paperbacks, Easy Cover and Poly Cover Book Covers by various brands, such as Kapco, are simple and efficient, but they are NOT archival or acid-free. Book covers of this variety stick directly on to the cover of the book. They prolong the use of a book, but they do not preserve the book and are not removable.
Price: $25 and up for packages of 25.

Book Press: wrap a brick with glossy wrapping paper and use it as a book press until glue dries. Price: free, if you have a brick and some wrapping paper lying around.

Book weights: too often we use another book (which is too heavy) or grab an object from our desk in order to hold a book open. A better method is using a book weight. They come in varying sizes. Price: a one pound weight costs about $10.

Bookbinder’s hammer: is a special hammer used to shape the spine of books. It is typically used to shape the spine before binding but I use it to round the spine after I have added book glue or rice starch (instead of using my hands to apply pressure). It is the perfect size hammer because it has a short handle and a small head (this makes it easy to use). Price: approx. $20-30.

Erasers: the Prismacolor MAGIC RUB Eraser is designed to work with delicate paper, it removes marks without leaving heavy residue like other erasers.
Price: approximately $8.

Plastic container: to store all book repair items. This helps to keep your brushes free from dust and dirt particles and everything in one place.
Price: $5 and up.

Self-healing cutting mats: provide a grid surface for cutting paper, without damaging desktops. They are particularly useful when trimming endpapers or working with errata’s. They come in various sizes.
Price: $10 and up.

Spiral Book Binders: Archival Products sells The Spiral Book Binder, designed by the University of Iowa in consultation with preservation librarians and book conservators, is a quick and easy solution developed specifically for spiral bound books. Its design protects spiral bound materials on the shelves, by reinforcing the spine and providing an outer cover. Available from Archival Products:
Price: ranges from $5.83 to $13.13 per unit.

Staff education: Training staff to handle materials and be aware of preservation issues is inexpensive to implement and yields great returns. See our Staff Awareness Guide and other preservation resources on our website.

Tacking iron: small lightweight iron thermostatically controlled; used to apply heat-set tissue or dry mends.
Price: $60-75.

Tape: can be used for quick and easy repairs on torn pages, hinges, or spines. There are many options for non-yellowing tape, but here are a couple of suggested brands:

  • Easy Bind Clear Polyester Repair Tape -this brand is not archival quality, and should not be used on rare materials. Price: $24-42.
  • Filmoplast – this brand makes archival quality tape, but not all of their products are archival. Price: $18-45.

Tying Tape: can be used to hold a book together before processing for repair. Materials can remain tied indefinitely if conservation work is not in the budget. Tying tape is unbleached, unsized 100% cotton twill tape, which is finer and softer than most others on the market. It will not cut into materials for the bindery or microfiche cards. It will not disintegrate as rubber bands do and can provide more reuses than rubber bands can.
Price: $12-50.

Wax paper: it is always handy to have around when applying adhesives to pages or spines. It can be used as a barrier to prevent adhesive from sticking to other pages and adjacent surfaces while my work dries.
Price: approximately $5.


Acid-Detection (A-D) Strips: these dye-coated paper strips detect and measure the severity of acetate film deterioration, a.k.a. vinegar syndrome, in film collections. The strips are sold in packages of 250 and come with a user’s guide and a pencil printed with bands that serve as color references. Available from the Image Permanence Institute: .
Price: $60 each for 1 to 9 packages, $48 each for 10+ packages.

Hydrion Humidicator Detection Test Paper: estimates relative humidity. Water vapor causes the paper to change colors. A deep blue indicates 20% relative humidity. At the other end of the humidicator a bright pink indicates 80% relative humidity. Place a test strip on a wall or in a chamber (or container) for up to 7 days. Each dispenser has enough paper for more than 200 test strips and comes in a sturdy carrying case. Uses include

  • Need for dehumidifiers in homes, offices, or storage areas
  • Justify buying a hygrometer, although there are inexpensive models

Color indicator chart for Hydrion Humidicator Detection Test Paper:

Price: approximately $17.

Silica Gel Dehumidifiers: Reusable Desiccant Canister containing indicating orange silica. Helps eliminate harmful moisture from exhibit cases and storage spaces.
Price: $37 and up.