Seniors Repair Books in Atlantic City

By Lauren Wanko

In an era where books are often being placed with e-books, there’s a small group of senior citizens in Atlantic City dedicated to re-binding and repairing the ones that often get tossed aside because they’re tattered and torn.

“Once they start failing apart they figure that’s the end of it, but what we can do with it work gets done and it’s like a new book,” said Millie Ordile, a volunteer at Myriam’s Dream Bookbindery.

“A lot of people want to preserve an old book they have for sentimental reasons,” said Emmy Todd, coordinator at Myriam’s Dream Bookbindery.

Myriam’s Dream Bookbindery was established in 1988 after a local resident traveled to Israel. She saw a bookbindery there and decided to create one in New Jersey. Now it’s part of the Jewish Older Adult Services. So far 5,000 books have been completed — everything from cookbooks to textbooks to Bibles.

When asked what the most unusual thing she repaired was, Todd said, “We repaired a Bible from a church in Egg Harbor City that went back to the 1600s.”

The books are often brought to the bookbindery in pieces.

“We get some really, you wonder! What? Did you do play football with it or something?” Ordile asked.

That’s when the crew here goes to work. First the cover is taken off. Next, new endpapers — that’s the first and last page of each book — are measured and glued on. Headbands are then glued on — that’s the decorative parts of the top and bottom of the spine. The crash is added — netting that will help bind the book to the cover. That’s what we caught Ordile working on.

“When you’re working with glue it dries so you have to get it while it’s going,” she said.

Then it’s time to start assembling the cover. Binder boards are measured and cut. Eventually fabric is glued to the board. There are nearly 20 different colors. Suzanne Stryker prints the text onto the cover. She chooses from an array of letter types, places them on a hot press, then lines the letters up so they’re centered with the book.

“That’s the most difficult. The spines are even more difficult because I have to get it in a narrow band,” she said.

The former art teacher loves the challenge, and handing the book back.

“It makes me feel good when they like it,” Stryker said.

Once the books are completed, they’re placed in a press — depending on the size, as many as 10 at a time. It’s closed and pressure’s put on the books. This ensures the glue to dries evenly and the binder boards don’t warp.

Galloway Township resident John Mullin wants to rebind a family Bible. It dates back to the 1800s and has family portraits inside. He wants to pass it on to his nephew.

“He just got married and he has children. He’s the youngest Mullin so I’m giving it to him,” he said.

It costs anywhere from $10 to $150 to complete the book. There are about 10 volunteers.

“It’s a pleasure to know you are doing something to help someone else without being rewarded. This is my reward. The feeling of having helped people, that’s all,” said volunteer Janet Brenner.

Myriam’s Dream Bookbindery is gearing up for their busiest time of year. Students may be giving the books a break in the summer, but these bookbinders will be working through the season.