For information and suggestions about how to deal with the most common problems related to old books, documents, maps, photographs, etc., we recommend you consult Your Old Books, produced by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.
The Canadian Conservation Institute includes a wealth of information about conservation and preservation.
It is sometimes possible to salvage books and papers which have become wet, but the assistance of a professional conservator is required. As soon as possible after you discover that an item has become wet, place it inside a plastic freezer bag, seal it, and put it into the freezer immediately. Contact a professional conservator for advice as to how to proceed.
Conservation and restoration
- Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild
- Library of Congress Preservation FAQ
- Library of Congress Preservation Directorate
Here are some suggestions for simple measures that will help to preserve your old books, documents, and photographs:
- Protect books, document, and photographs from extremes of temperature and humidity.
- Reduce the risk of damage from mold by storing valuable items in a clean, well-ventilated environment.
- Dust books and bookshelves periodically to control air-borne molds and dirt.
- Handle valuable books, documents, and especially photographs, with care. Shelve books in an upright position. Do not overcrowd bookshelves.
- Leave repairs to the experts.
- Never use adhesive tape to repair damaged items.
- Use acid-free paper products for storage and display of valuable items. Acid-free buffered paper products help to protect paper from deterioration.
- Photographs should be stored and displayed using acid-free unbuffered materials. Limit exposure to light.
- Use only archival-quality plastics. Mylar ® protective sleeves, page protectors, etc., are widely available. Do not use plastic products that contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or plastics whose composition is unknown.
Most old Bibles have more sentimental than monetary value.
For information on unique or rare Bibles (e.g. the Breeches Bible, the "Wicked Bible"), look in the Library catalogue under the subject heading Bible--Bibliography.
The University of Waterloo Library does not offer evaluations or appraisals.
Many antiquarian book dealers who specialize in valuable and collectible books perform evaluations or appraisals, usually for a fee. There are many sources of information on the Internet about books and book dealers. One starting point is the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of Canada.
For advice about what to do with old books in your possession, check what should I do with my old books and documents?.
Materials in Special Collections & Archives do not circulate. You are welcome to consult them in our reading room.
Eating and drinking are not permitted in the Special Collections & Archives.
The use of a digital camera or camera enabled device (e.g., tablet or smart phone) is allowed at the discretion of Special Collections & Archives staff and in accordance with the following guidelines:
- Photographs must be for the purpose of research or private study only.
- Researchers must complete a Request for Reproduction form.
- The use of flash, audio recording tools, tripods, or personal scanners is prohibited.
- Material must be handled properly and with care.
- Photographing staff or other researchers is prohibited.
- Researchers are responsible for keeping complete citations for all material photographed.
Special Collections & Archives staff reserves the right to deny or revoke permission to use digital cameras at any time.
Researchers may also use our book2net kiosk overhead scanner to digitize material from Special Collections & Archives for research and private study purposes on a case by case basis. Restrictions may apply due to the physical condition of the material, associated copyright law, or donor restrictions.
Researchers must provide their own flash drive or memory key.