Job Descriptions, Definitions Roles, Responsibility: Bookbinders and Bindery Workers

The process of combining printed sheets into finished products such as books, magazines, catalogs, folders, directories, or product packaging is known as “binding.” Binding involves cutting, folding, gathering, gluing, stapling, stitching, trimming, sewing, wrapping, and other finishing operations. Bindery workers setup, operate, and maintain the machines that perform these various tasks.

Job duties depend on the kind of material being bound. In firms that do edition binding, for example, workers bind books produced in large numbers, or “runs.” Job binding workers bind books produced in smaller quantities. In firms specializing in library binding, workers repair books and provide other specialized binding services to libraries. Pamphlet binding workers produce leaflets and folders, and manifold binding workers bind business forms such as ledgers and books of sales receipts. Blankbook binding workers bind blank pages to produce notebooks, checkbooks, address books, diaries, calendars, and note pads.

Some types of binding and finishing consist of only one step. Preparing leaflets or newspaper inserts, for example, requires only folding. Binding of books and magazines, on the other hand, requires a number of steps.

Bookbinders and bindery workers assemble books and magazines from large, flat, printed sheets of paper. Skilled workers operate machines that first fold printed sheets into “signatures,” which are groups of pages arranged sequentially. Bookbinders then sew, stitch, or glue the assembled signatures together, shape the book bodies with presses and trimming machines, and reinforce them with glued fabric strips. Covers are created separately, and glued, pasted, or stitched onto the book bodies. The books then undergo a variety of finishing operations, often including wrapping in paper jackets.

A small number of bookbinders work in hand binderies. These highly skilled workers design original or special bindings for limited editions, or restore and rebind rare books. The work requires creativity, knowledge of binding materials, and a thorough background in the history of binding. Hand bookbinding gives individuals the opportunity to work in the greatest variety of bindery jobs.

Bookbinders and bindery workers in small shops may perform many binding tasks, while those in large shops usually are assigned only one or a few operations, such as running complicated manual or electronic guillotine papercutters or folding machines. Others specialize in adjusting and preparing equipment, and may perform minor repairs as needed.