Text and image by Benito V. Sanvictores Jr.
(July-August)—He works in a discreet area in the third floor of the University Library at UP Diliman (UPD). His old, dependable desk is set amidst the sea of books and other printed materials stacked side by side and on top of each other on the book shelves, waiting for his hands to give them a new lease on life.
Lemuel E. Fernando is UPD’s sole binder. “I am in charge of preserving books and other printed materials like journals and newspapers. Pinapahaba ko ang buhay ng mga libro (I am prolonging the shelf life of the books). The task is more important with significant works. In binding books, I am extending help to the present and future library users because they can still use those printed materials,” Fernando said.
In addition to the University Library, Fernando serves more than 40 college libraries at UPD. Helping him are two contractual binder aides and on some occasions, students from the School of Library and Information Studies.
According to Fernando, the Library uses five types of binding: “pamphlet binding, all-alone binding, simple binding, reinforcement binding and overcast binding.”
His work begins by assessing the materials sent to the library for binding or repair. The basic steps in binding are: taking the book apart so that the cover is separated from the book body; boring holes in the spine of the book; manual sewing of the book spine; preparing the book cover; putting the title and author’s name on the cover and side using a manual hot stamping machine; and pasting or joining the sewn book into the pre-made cover.
“Kailangang matiyaga at mabusisi ang binder kasi mahirap umulit pag nagkamali,” Fernando said. Fernando joined the Library as a part-time staff at the library’s Social Sciences section in the early 1980s, becoming a binder aide in the mid-1980s. He became a regular, full-time binder aide in 1988 under then University Librarian Belen B. Angeles. He learned binding methods through Roger Estrada, another full-time binder that time.
Born in 1955 in Aklan, Fernando obtained an Associate Degree in Geodetic Engineering in 1980 from the Garcia College of Technology in Kalibo, Aklan, but was not able to take the licensure examination.
He went to Manila to look for a job to help in the family’s finances. He took odd jobs during his first years in Manila because it was difficult to land a job. He worked as a housekeeper in a printing press in Recto, a delivery boy/staff assist of a kerosene shop, and a janitor in the University of the East, Recto campus.
“Dahil sa mga pinagdaanan ko, nakaya ko ang buhay ng isang binder,” he said.
According to him, binding is a very tedious job. It is a manual, routine work and binders are exposed to dust, molds, adhesives and other particles. He believes that only a few are interested in the binding trade because of its nature. Graduates often prefer white-collar jobs.
His most recent significant assignment is binding and repairing majority of the works of the late judge Guillermo B. Guevara.
Judge Guevara is the founder of criminology in the Philippines and a former professorial lecturer on criminal law at the UP College of Law. The book collection, comprising 690 volumes, covers penal sciences, economics, history, literature and philosophy, most of which are out of print. The Guevara papers are housed in the Judge Guillermo B. Guevara Room at the second floor of the University Library, which opened to the public in June 2012.
The University Library conferred on Fernando the Long Service Award during its 92nd Foundation Day on Mar. 17, 2014 at the Bulwagan ng Dangal. Conferring the award were then University Librarian Prof. Rodolfo Y. Tarlit and former University Librarian Prof. Salvacion M. Arlante. The award is given to a library staff who has served the University Library for a minimum of 25 years. From a Library Aide in1988, Fernando now holds an Administrative Assistant IV position. “Despite all the hardships, I continue with my work in the bindery because this is my service to the Library which accepted me when I was looking for a job. Happy to serve po ako. This is where I got my first regular job. Tumatanaw lang po ako ng utang na loob,” Fernando said.