What Is Library Binding: Purpose, Types, Methods, & Identification

Binding books have a long and illustrious history and are one of the many vital parts of library supplies. Library bindings can be decorative or functional, but they all serve a purpose. 

Some bindings ensure that every document is stored safely and in the best condition possible. Others are used to help make the reading experience more enjoyable. 

Library bindings can also be unique in other ways, depending on the type of library where they are used. 

Library binding is also a particular binding explicitly designed for use within a library setting. It’s a sturdy and durable type of binding that can handle frequent service and sometimes harsh conditions.

If you’re interested in learning more about a library binding, read on.

What is Library Binding?

Binding book is an old tradition that began with monks who wanted to keep their texts safe. They found a way to tie the text into its cover, creating a durable and attractive book. 

Library binding means that the book’s spine (the backbone or main support) is covered with hardcover material like cloth, paperboard, and leather, which protects it from damage and enables it to be easily opened for reading.

The pages are attached to the spine using thread and adhesive. The result is a book that can be opened flat from the spine but has no moving parts.

This binding became quite popular during the Middle Ages and is still used for textbooks, trade books, and many other publications.

Over time, binding techniques changed, and today we have many types of bindings: hardcover, paperback, spiral binding, and saddle stitch binding, among others.

Why Does Library Binding Matter?

Binding a book is an essential step in preserving the work it contains. The main purpose of library bindings is that they are designed to protect books and keep them for future generations. 

They’re made with materials that don’t leach chemicals or erode over time, so they can last longer than regular binding methods. 

Library bindings look better and provide a more secure reading experience because the pages won’t pop out when you fold the spine down. 

Binding books means more than just protecting pages and giving them a durable cover. It’s about preserving written stories, poems, and essays for generations. 

Library binding puts these stories in the hands of as many people as possible so that everyone can understand and appreciate them. Plus, library binding looks great on any shelf.

What Are the Types of Library Binding?

The two types of library binding are original and aftermarket.

Original binding is done to preserve the text as it was originally written. It comes from books being bound initially for use in libraries where they will receive harder-than-usual usage. 

This type of binding ensures that the book remains durable and easy to read over time. Original binding is the best for preserving a book’s original look and feel. Additionally, it often comes with a higher price tag.

This aftermarket library binding is perfect when libraries need to replace or upgrade current bindings but don’t want to spend a fortune on new editions. 

It is the ideal way to keep books in excellent condition and easily accessible. It’s a fast, easy, and affordable method of binding that will offer years of service.

What Are The Methods Of Library Binding?

There are three practical methods of library binding. They are:

1. Over-sewing

This binding method involves sewing together loose book pages to form the book’s body. 

Tiny vertical holes are pierced through each page’s far left side, and the pages are sewn together to form the body of the book. It is a strong binding for books that are five inches thicker. 

The margins of over-sewn books also tend to be smaller in comparison since they don’t lie flat when opened up.

2. Sewing through the fold

This method involves attaching different signatures and connecting them sequentially to form the body of the book. 

Essentially, a signature is a set of folded papers that form the book’s body. They are usually sewn through the fold with a needle and thread, but they can also be machine-sewn with several arrows and threads. 

This type of library binding has wide margins, making it easier to read unfolded pages while keeping books sturdy and closed when not in use.

3. Side sewing

Side sewing is a method of library binding where loose pages are attached by sewing the book’s entire body through the side, along the margin. 

The book won’t lay flat after sewing, but it’s tightly sealed, so it won’t fall open. The process is done in one pass and then sewn by machine.

Library Binding vs Hardcover 

Library binding describes the method of producing a book specially prepared for use in a library setting. 

Binders use various materials to make their bindings, including leather and cloth. They also can apply some decoration on their books, such as gold leafing or marbling. 

These bindings are generally durable. Individuals may find it difficult to own books with library binding since they are ideally suited for libraries.

Hardcover books are produced by taking two sheets of paper and folding them together to make a book cover. 

The inside pages are then attached with glue or staples, called “sewing-together books.” The term “hardcover” refers to the fact that these books have thicker pages. 

How Do You Identify a Book with a Library Binding?

A girl holding a book in the library - lmshero

To identify a book with library binding, look for the following details. The spine should be tightly bound with rectangular corners tapered towards the edges. 

This type of binding often has a rough cover, mostly seen on older, rare titles. 

Additionally, look at how closely the pages mesh together. Libraries prefer to thumb through these volumes rather than flip through them like a regular book. 

Lastly, library bindings do not come with a dust jacket.


What is the best method to preserve library binding?

There is no best method, but one common practice is to keep the bindings in good condition and avoid exposure to moisture or contaminants. 

Other measures may include climate control, no trim, less strain on the binding, and professional care.

Why are library-binding books more expensive?

Many factors contribute to the price of a library-binding book, including the material cost (paper, ink, glue) and the degree of craftsmanship. 

Do library bindings have a removable dust jacket?

No, library bindings don’t have a removable dust jacket. A dust jacket is a cover put on a book before it’s sold. It protects the pages and makes the book look nicer.

What materials are used for library binding?

The most common material used for library binding is buckram. Buckram is a durable material made from 100% cotton. In most cases, it is often covered with acrylic. 

Final Thoughts 

Library bindings are an important part of the library experience. While there are many excellent modern bindings, traditional library bindings can still give a book a sense of elegance and prestige. 

Library bindings provide a unique service to libraries—they are beautiful tools that can help patrons connect with the books they borrow. 

In addition, library binding offers librarians an opportunity to create high-quality publications that can be used as teaching materials or reference sources. 

Library binding is a craft passed down through the generations, and its practitioners are custodians of a centuries-old tradition. 

By properly preparing and mounting books, librarians ensure that these treasured objects last for future generations to enjoy.

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Thanks for reading.