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Craig Preservation Lab

A Post about Post-it Notes

This is a public service announcement for those of you who may have, at one time or another, used Post-it Notes to mark pages in a book so you can return to certain passages later. Only when later comes around — especially if it has been a while — they become harder to remove without damaging the pages.

An attempt to remove a Post-it Note, with unhappy results. This book must have been super full of important stuff!

I have to admit, sticky notes are pretty cool and handy and all that. And they ARE designed to be removable. BUT they do get harder to pull off cleanly after they have been stuck on for a while. Sometimes the paper tears (see above) or they leave stains. Other times a layer of the page peels off. If you’ve stuck the note on top of text or images, whoops! These problems are more pronounced in older books that have weak paper.

I know I am probably not going to be able to dissuade you from using sticky notes in books, so if you want to use them in your own books, that is totally up to you. But I hope you won’t put them in books that someone else owns — or, more to my point, those owned collectively. And by collectively I mean library books, which need to last a long time so that people after you can read them too.

But there is a way to remove sticky notes that is much less likely to cause damage. It’s not like removing a band-aid, where no matter what you do, it is going to ouch!

It is a basic hand skill that conservators use all the time when they need to separate two things, remove tape, and so on. Instead of pulling up, peel or roll the sticky note back on itself at the lowest angle possible. And remember, you can always return your book at the library’s circulation desk and ask them to send the book to the Preservation Department for some TLC. We’ll be glad to help you out.

Peeling a post-it note back at a low angle
Peel the Post-it Note back at a low angle. If a layer of paper starts to peel off with the note, stop and get expert help!
I made this sign after removing those 48 sticky tabs from a nice old book. I did feel a little better afterwards.

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