The title above represents most answers we hear in court when there is a dispute about binding quality. Assisting lawyers as an expert witness, my favorite whisper into the lawyer’s ear then is, “ask them which Standards!” Unfortunately, there are very few Standards in our industry. We have one for school textbooks (NASTA), another for edition binding (Durable Hardcover Binding for Books), and a Standard for Library and Pre-Binding. The first question of course is, how did these Standards originate and how often are they used. After all, most librarians are familiar with bindings that come apart, at least these kinds of bindings get all the attention.
The first Standards or specifications for book bindings were written in 1923 when it became apparent to librarians that bindings on books subjected to repeated use at the library did not last. The American Library Association got together with publishers, librarians, book manufacturers and library binders to issue the first set of specifications. Soon library binders found that they had little in common with publishers’ editions and school textbooks. While book manufacturers established their own textbook specifications, library binders and dedicated ALA members issued their own, much more stringent standards.. Both the NASTA textbook and the LBI specifications for library binding have served their industries and their end users well.
That left as the only editions not covered by standards the publisher’s bindings. These bindings deteriorated so badly that librarians called for action. I was part of the committee that established strict standards for Hardcover bindings, ANSI/NISO Z39.66-1992. Unfortunately, all the good intentions of our committee of dedicated librarians, publishers, and book manufacturers were in vain. These days, hardly a book manufacturer or publishing production manager is even aware that such a standard exists!
Library binders and librarians have always worked as partners. Recently, they revised their already tough specifications and issued a new ANSI/NISO/LBI Z39.78.-2000 Standard for Library Binding. The results are that bindings bound in accordance to this Standard are the very best in regard to materials chosen and best of all in regard to performance. These bindings will almost always circulate over 100 times in a library. BTSB almost exclusively binds all of its books in accordance to this tough Standard. Pre-binding new books for library use is perhaps one of the best investments, The late Susan Swartzburg stated it in her book “Preserving Library Materials: “Permanence for a particular volume for 300 to 500 years is not important, what counts is that library bindings need to withstand 100+ circulations.”