What to Do When You Damage a Book

We have all been there. It was in your hand, and then it was in a mud puddle. It was on the table, and then somehow the dog had it. You were enjoying it with a piece of cake, and then…

First step, don’t panic.

Then, some tips:

If you got it wet, try drying it off.

This sounds like a no-brainer but the sooner you do it the better—really. Whether it’s water, coffee, soda or boba, a little drip or a big splash, after a day or two on its own you are likely to find the page now has a permanent wave or that it has started to gather little spots of mold. But if you wipe the spot while it’s still wet, and blot it so it is as dry as possible, you'll see a lot less damage. 

You were eating, and then…

Nothing goes better with a good meal than a good book. If you do eat while reading, check for crumbs before you turn the page. If you catch them before they get squashed, they are much easier to shake out. If you do find one that’s a little squishy, try using your thumbnail to carefully scratch it off.

What’s that smell?

Paper has an unfortunate tendency to pick up odors. If you notice that yours picked up something from the atmosphere, try setting it outside on a dry day with the pages propped open. Putting it in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer for a day or two also may work. 

Harold and the Purple Crayon found it. Crayons are a toughie, but if it’s pencil or even some pens, you may be able to erase it. If it’s a children's book with just a few markings inside the cover or on a margin, and doesn’t impair the reading experience, we may treat it as wear and tear.

Some things not to do:

  • Please don’t tape it. We will definitely notice, and it makes it harder to fix.
  • Don’t add Febreze. Whatever it smelled like before, it will only smell like that plus flowers.

Once you’ve done your best, the next thing is to bring it to the Check Out Desk and let us know about the damage. Don't worry—we understand that accidents happen! 

We are invested in getting the item back so other patrons can enjoy it too, and we want to help ensure it is in the best possible condition. We may have a trick or technique to fix it that you haven’t thought of, and we are much more likely to be able to fix it if we know about it quickly.

And if it’s not fixable, telling us about the item lets us know we should order a new copy so others who may be waiting get to enjoy it too. If you think you can get it for a better price than we can be sure to let us know—we will often accept a replacement, if you’ve talked to us first, and made sure to get a new copy of the exact same item by checking the ISBN.

Happy reading!