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Field Trip to Library Binding Services, Des Moines (November 2001)

On November 27, 2001 a group of staff and students at the UI Libraries, took a trip to Library Binding Services (LBS) in Des Moines, Iowa. The purpose of the trip was twofold. The morning tours were designed to educate library staff about the manufacturing of the LBS products they use. Staff were asked to consider LBS facilities with a vision for potential future collaboration on binding based products that would enhance the maintenance and housing of the collections at the UI Libraries. The afternoon visit to Fritz James’ private library provided students a unique opportunity to study some interesting historical book structures. Participating in the trip were preservation staff Nancy Kraft, Gary Frost, Kristin Baum, and Susan Hansen, Sid Huttner, Head of Special Collections, as well as students from the class Structure of the Handmade Book.

In business since 1927, LBS is a chief manufacturer and converter of binding materials. Their commitment to research and development of binding products has lead to the development of two additional company divisions: Corporate Image, which manufactures presentation packaging such as binders, folders, software packaging; and Archival Products, which manufactures high quality preservation enclosures.

Highlights of our visit, which was graciously hosted by Fritz James, President of LBS, included:


The tour included visits to the Sample Wall, pre-press area, and the plant. The plant boasts a variety of advanced equipment including a 6-color German press. Innovation is key at Corporate Image and it is demonstrated by their ability to adapt their machines for a variety of product manufacturing.

Fritz James, President of LBS, and Sid Huttner, Head of UI Special Collections
Fritz James, President of LBS, and Sid Huttner, Head of UI Special Collections. In the background is the "Sample Wall," a diverse and impressive collection of Corporate Image product samples, including their Presentation and Easel Binders.
Fritz explains
Fritz explains how their specialized binders are covered.
Fritz explains
Fritz James explains the workflow at the Corporate Image facilities.


On this tour we learned how pamphlet and music binders, four flap enclosures, and other folders are produced. Much of the production is accomplished by hand.

Janice comer
Janice Comer, Division Manager at Archival Products, explains the workflow of the Archival Products facilities while we watch the production of Pamphlet Binders.


At the LBS Facilities, we learned how cloth is custom cut for each individual customer, as well as how endsheets are produced.

Lang Wightman
Lang Wightman, LBS Vice President, Production, explains how customized endsheets are manufactured.

Following the tours, we were provided lunch and an opportunity to discuss future collaborations with Fritz James and Janice Comer, Archival Products Manager.

After lunch, Fritz welcomed us into his home and personal library for a spectacular review of his collections. The students in Gary Frost’s Structure of the Handmade Book course were given the opportunity to study some impressive exemplars of the Ethiopian binding and 19th century Victorian publisher’s cloth binding.

Fitz James
Fritz James in his personal library.

The trip to the LBS facilities proved to be interesting, informative and valuable. The Preservation Department has gained a better understanding of the product potential at LBS and how a collaboration with them could greatly contribute to the care of the collections at the UI Libraries.