Library books and stickers... help!!

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Library books and stickers... help!!

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Nov 5, 2008, 10:21pm

Okay... I have a bone to pick with you librarians!

Well, not really... but I do have a question on something that's been irritating me. I love book sales- I think they're about the best thing in the world... but so many of the books have library stickers (Dewey and colored stripes) on the spine. Now, I don't mind the card holder in the back or the stamp on the edges of the pages... but these stickers drive me crazy! I just found two beautifully illustrated books of TS Eliot poems and a portion of the cover artwork is covered by these stickers. I've tried several methods on other books, but haven't found a reliable way to remove them. I know you use high quality stickers so that people can't steal the books and the tags won't fall off, but is there any secret to removing them?

Thanks in advance. Librarians rock. =)

Nov 6, 2008, 1:31am

You could try peeling with a butter knife instead of trying with your fingernails... If there's any goo left you can try a cotton swab with alcohol, some good sticky tape, or a bottle of commercial remover although that stuff is really strong. Note that with older books that aren't laminated at all the alcohol will bring up the color.

Nov 6, 2008, 9:06am

check the book care & repair group for suggestions on dealing with stickers, tape, glue, & assorted other challenges &/or damage.

Nov 6, 2008, 10:52am

Ooo- thank you both for the suggestions. I didn't know there was such a group- I'll have to go find them now. =)

Nov 6, 2008, 12:34pm

An expensive and time-consuming, but oh so bibliophile suggestion: learn to bind books, remove the original covers, and replace them by a leather binding with gilt letters on the back! That's what I'm planning to do in 35 years, when I retire :-)

Nov 6, 2008, 3:26pm

Our library occasionally purchases books from public library sales and I have found that you can peel off the label either with your fingernail or dull knife. Then I use "Goo Gone" (available at most stores) to remove the stickiness. I'm not sure I would advise this method for older, "antique" books but for your garden variety library book it does the trick.

Nov 6, 2008, 5:14pm

Just to follow up on theresak1975, Goo Gone works really well, but can leave behind a slightly greasy film. Because of that I can't really recommend using it directly on books, but it works wonders on dust jackets.

Nov 6, 2008, 6:20pm

When I went to the book care and repair group I found they had a post about this exact topic. I figured I'd link it here... it helped me tons, so I'm guessing it might help someone else.

Nov 6, 2008, 6:24pm

I don't mind stickers on the spine, but I got a used book (through the internet) and it had a barcode sticker ON THE FRONT COVER.

Then when they decided to get rid of the book (I got it from a bookseller), they used heavy black permanent marker and colored it in, and the cover around the edges too.

I understand that with technology you need the barcode, but why not put it inside the cover ?

I would expect that of philistines or barbarians, but not actual libraries. Is this common ?

Nov 6, 2008, 6:31pm

We put bar codes inside the cover - it's a real pain and if I could start again I'd put them on the outside. Inside means every time you check a book in or out it has to be opened. That may not sound terribly onerous, but it adds up.

Outside bar codes work better with self check systems, too (except RFID systems) because the clients don't have to fiddle with the book to find the bar code. Trust me, you want to make the process as simple as possible.

Also, we belong to a library consortium and every library has a different standard for where they put the darned bar codes - again, if I could turn back the clock, I'd standardize that - all on the outside front cover or outside back cover, and in same corner of whichever we agreed on.

Nov 6, 2008, 6:48pm

I totally agree tardis. We started off (1992) with barcodes inside the back cover, now we put them at the bottom near the spine on the front. Not only for issuing and returning but for stocktaking. The extra time taking every book off the shelf and opening the cover before zapping it, could be counted in days. The books now just need to be pulled forward from the edge of the shelf and zapped and pushed back again. I know it's an absolute shame when a book like this is bought once it is no longer a library book, but the primary purpose of a library purchasing and barcoding a book is not for the convenience of whoever might own it after the library has finished with it!

Nov 6, 2008, 9:23pm

I know it's an absolute shame when a book like this is bought once it is no longer a library book, but the primary purpose of a library purchasing and barcoding a book is not for the convenience of whoever might own it after the library has finished with it!

No its not just about the person who buys it when the book ends its life in the Library. It is a work of art, and it shouldn't be defiled while its in the Library or after. Spine stickers are one thing but barcodes on the front cover ??

I shudder to think what will be considered acceptable next.

Nov 6, 2008, 11:41pm

I agree about books being works of art, but I think easy access to the words inside is more important than a sticker on the cover.

But I really don't understand the debate... what's the difference between barcode on the cover and barcode on the inside other than convenience?

Nov 7, 2008, 12:04pm

12> Work of art? I disagree - 90% of books are hardly works of art. The bar code on the cover is mere aesthetics, and no more disfiguring than all the other things libraries do to books. If you can still read the inside, that's what is important.

Libraries buy most books for one main reason: to circulate them to patrons. To facilitate circulation we catalogue the books and apply spine labels and bar codes and RFID chips and stamp the edge of the pages with our branch codes and put book plates or stamps inside and laminate the covers and/or whatever else is required by our policies or circulation systems. Library books also get hard use. Being shelved, reshelved, dumped in book drops, having food and beverages spilled on them or dumped in the bath by careless patrons, chewed on by pets, etc. all take their toll. Bar codes, spine labels, etc. have to be REALLY sticky or they fall off and cost the library time and money.

When books reach the end of their useful library life, some libraries try to sell them, and they make an effort to mark the book in such a way that an eventual purchaser won't think they have an active library book and try to give it back. Sometimes they add additional stamps (WITHDRAWN, for example) or cross off the bar code or whatever.

No library that I'm aware of has the staff or time to remove labels of any kind. That's hugely time-consuming.

I think you're lucky that ex-library books are available for purchase at all. In my library we are not allowed to sell our discards so what we can't donate to the nearest university is recycled.

Nov 7, 2008, 12:27pm

It's simple: if you don't like books with barcodes and library stamps, don't buy at library sales.

I wish I cared as much as you do - it would have spared me from at least 10 boxes of unread books that are taking up space in my appartment :-)

Nov 7, 2008, 4:38pm

I don't like the stickers, but I'll spend my time removing them myself. I love book sales and things too much to complain about it. But I do agree that stickers on the front cover are a little much. The back cover is just as convenient, and doesn't show nearly as much. =)

Nov 7, 2008, 5:25pm

# 15, Try reading my post again. In two places I specifically said it was not a library sale.

I almost never buy books from Library sales, I may have one book that I bought directly from a Library.

I have almost 6,000 books in my small 2 room apartment, and my comments are not so much about the buying of the book, but the fact that libraries and librarians seem to think its OK to deface a book as long as its done institutionally and not by a patron.

Nov 7, 2008, 7:31pm

Don't agree with your definition of "deface". Ever heard of caveat emptor? You chose to buy it, knowing it had a sticker, now you moan. Get over it.

Nov 7, 2008, 7:49pm

Do you even read ? I bought it over the internet, and had no knowledge of its condition. My complaint isn't so much about the sticker and the condition of one book, as the idea that a place that is supposed to VALUE books, in fact doesn't.

Can Fahrenheit 451 be far behind, given your stellar example ?

Nov 7, 2008, 8:23pm

Surely valuing books isn't about the condition of the cover or endpapers! Surely "defacing" a book is an act of vandalism, not something meant to help people find the book they're looking for? Even if the outside was covered (no pun intended) with stickers, the BOOK would still be the same. Valuing the appearance of a book doesn't do anyone much good, especially when the books are going to be used often.

Nov 8, 2008, 7:18am

FicusFan, I understand your concern, but libraries (particularly circulating libraries) aren't museums - their concern is not preserving pristine copies of books that come through their doors. A major concern is making a single copy of a book last as long as it can so that many people get a chance to use it. That is why covers get laminated, or reinforced, why paperbacks are sometimes rebound, and yes, why stickers and stamps and barcodes and permanent wrappers are added.

Libraries only have so much money with which to buy books. If they left each copy unmarked and neat, people simply wouldn't return them, since they could be easily resold. So besides improving efficiency at the circ desk and other concerns like that, marking books is also a theft deterrent.

There's a great debate about this in the rare book world, which is very different than the public library world ... but that's an argument for a different place.

The distinction here is between the "container" (the physical book itself) and the "contents" (the text). Circulating libraries are charged with allowing the contents to reach as many people as possible. If steps have to be taken that will allow the container to meet that charge, they will be taken.

Collectors and readers may/do have different concerns. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of stickers and things all over my books, so I don't buy ones like that (and if I do, say accidentally over the internet, I return it if it was insufficiently described). But understand that librarians aren't out to "deface" anything, they're just trying to keep what they have for as long as they can.

Nov 8, 2008, 10:28am

re: #19, FicusFan, I truly understand your frustration with the book you ordered over the internet. I am a member of two bookswap groups online & I have gotten a number of absolutely gorgeous books... in terrific condition. BUT I have also gotten some that will be read, but never put on a bookshelf in my home. Some books were former library copies & I've tried to disguise the fact that they were former library copies as much as I can... at least via the spine on the shelf. (impossible in one or two cases)

The challenge is that there are some people who don't use the same care in using books that I do. A few years ago, I went to a leadership retreat sponsored by a church group. As is usual for me, I brought my study bible, but I almost always carry a mass-market paperback copy of the bible translation that I prefer. During a bible study, one of the other students needed a bible, so I got my pb copy & let her use it. She opened it to the passage we were studying, but because it wasn't opening enough for her, she lifted it & then opened it further to "crack the spine"... deliberately. I almost jumped her, but the damage was done... telling her anything would have interrupted the class & she had no idea that she shouldn't break the spine to make it easier to use. I swallowed my frustration & grief... yes, grief. That book was in very good condition, despite its frequent use. I am very careful when I use that copy now, so the 'accidental' damage doesn't get any worse.

So, FicusFan, although your frustration at others' understanding of books and their use & care is similar to mine... I have come to realize that there are many many people who look at books as just a tool to be used. They don't realize that with proper care books can be used even longer... and continue to look extremely good.

That also being said, I have been known to take one or two of my "popular fiction" paperbacks with me when I indulge in a frothy bubble bath... but I am still very careful to get only damp fingerprints on the book.

Good Luck with your book... I hope you are able to get it to a condition that is as close to what you want as possible.... or be able to get another copy.

Edited: Nov 8, 2008, 12:52pm

>22 skittles: I would have screamed in pain and exclaimed "What are you doing to my Bible?" and would not have cared about whether or not I interrupted the class.

Nov 8, 2008, 2:10pm

FicusFan - did your internet bookseller not identify the book as ex-library? Most of them seem to, and the price should reflect any "damage" to the book caused by labels, stamps, etc. I'd complain to the seller if the book was insufficiently described and you feel the seller misrepresented it.

Nov 10, 2008, 1:45pm

I agree. If I bought the book through the internet and it did not specifically describe any markings and stickers I would place a report on the seller. I don't purchase used books online but I am part of a bookswap and have found myself the recepient of badly marked or used books without forewarning. It's no fun! If I would have known in advance I wouldn't have requested it. As for marking books in my own persona library, unfortunately it comes with the territory and must be done for the security of the book and for the efficiency of the library. I purchase used books for my library here and have to resort to clever camoflauge to mask the previous library users. But, as long as my students use the book I'm happy even if there is a big stinking mark inside the book!

Apr 21, 2009, 12:02am

"Goo Gone" is a staple at my library. :o)

Apr 22, 2009, 4:34am

Putting aside all the perfectly reasonable reasons for stickers and the rest...
I am so frustrated by the library supplier that applies barcodes by machine - they are all in the same place on the front of the book, completely regardless of what is on the cover. Yes, it's quicker, cheaper and more convinient to do it by machine, but quite often it's also not possible to read the title!

Apr 22, 2009, 12:56pm

if the book has a mylar jacket, vinegar will remove leftover goo. Also, library supply companies have a book cleaner paste that's good. It'll remove all sorts of *nasty* stuff (school library books can get particularly icky)

Apr 22, 2009, 1:21pm

Members on another thread mentioned a product called Bestine, that is supposed to be available from crafts stores and is allegedly better than Goo Gone. I've had no luck locating it so far, but will begin to look online and let you know if it works.

Apr 23, 2009, 12:03pm

If the wikipedia article is right and Bestine is heptane, then Un-du Adhesive Remover from Demco (and maybe other places) is the same product. I looked at the Material Safety Data Sheets that Demco has online.

Because I found this topic, and had to look up the Brodart and Demco site where I have purchased book care products in the past, I have now found some really interesting softcover book protection sleeves (Brodart Plasti-Kleer® DuraSavers®) that I may have to try the next time I order hardcover jacket covers.

Apr 23, 2009, 5:47pm

It seems all of these messages are either from patrons or librarians that don't do much of the circulation. If you work in a huge city branch and are checking out 50 books at a time you need to be able to check out the books efficiently. The same is true for inventory where you have to scan 12,000 books a year. It’s unrealistic to pull out each individual book and open the cover. Even to look for the barcode is time consuming. Unfortunately, sometimes it covers an illustration or title but it is about time and convenience. When that is your whole job it's a huge deal! Some put it on the back but you run the risk covering the synopsis of the book so the front cover makes the most sense. I thought the point of current libraries (not museums or rare books) is circulation to the masses. If this is the case it makes sense to put the barcode on the front. Also regarding the black pen over the barcode one reason this happens is because if you take of the barcode it can completely leave a hole on the cover or the spine. The black pen all though unsightly is better than holes. Ideas to get barcodes off including the pen which is over the sticker is a straight razor and Goo-Gone with a Q-tip. I’m sorry if I seem snooty but this idea of entitlement that we should not make our job go smoother because you may buy our books at a discounted price (priced to take in account for the stickers). It’s ironic that these complaints are normally made by the same people that complain if it is taking too long to check-out books in the first place.

Apr 24, 2009, 4:26am

When I worked at a University library, I worked as the processing officer for a while. I applied the barcode to the front cover - always in the same location (I used a template), no matter what was on the front cover.


We use an automated check-out system. The patron places the book in a 'slot', and the scanner reads the barcode. This system relies on the scanner always being able to find the barcode on the book, so it needs to be in the same place every time.

Yes, sometimes it was almost heart-breaking to place that barcode over the title or author details. But the pay-off was increased efficiency in checking books out, the ability for staff to undertake valuable duties other than the manual handling task of scanning books, and most importantly, reduced physical strain and risk of injury to library staff who undertake repetitive physical actions again and again, day after day.

Apr 24, 2009, 9:39am

Having done inventory every year at the bookstore for the past ten years, I can attest to the extra work that comes when barcodes are all over books. Before the change to the 13 digit ISBNs, mass market paperbacks had their scannable barcodes on the inside cover; we had to pull it off the shelf, open it, scan it and put it back on the shelf (all keeping it in saleable condition). Now it is mostly slide-scan-slide ("mostly" because publishers do not conform to a single standard of barcode placement).

Apr 24, 2009, 10:19am

Seems like the original poster's beef is with the person who sold her/him the book -- without disclosing its actual condition. I have bought used library books off alibris but always with the knowledge of what i was getting. I agree with those who say the point of circulating library books is for them to circulate and be available to readers -- for free! Plastic covers, stickers and barcodes all make that feasible. In my current job I sometimes process books when they come in -- I have even become accustomed to using the bayonet, the metal strip you put down a book's spine to lead in the magnetic metal strip that sets off our security system if someone leaves with a book without checking it out. Is that mutilation? I guess so. But it helps protect that book from theft and thus keeps it available for others.
What I can't stand, even in privately owned books, is books with underlining or writing in the margins. I'll accept that you have every right to do this if you've purchased a book and that literary scholars and historians have probably learned a lot from such annotations. But if I'm reading I find it really distracting. I probably wasted years of my life in school copying down note rather than underlining or highlighting, but that was my choice.

Apr 24, 2009, 11:51am

I'm a library clerk at a Middle School and I put the barcodes on the front of the books because it's faster. The library clerk before me (or maybe her volunteers) actually had put them on the back of the book right near the ISBN barcode, so we have difficulty scanning the library barcode accurately when checking out. She never made sure the barcodes were consistantly in the same place. On many other books, she put the barcode either sideways or length ways on the front. This doesn't make it easy for my student helpers. If these barcodes were put inside the books the same way that they were put ON the books, it would take forever to check out!