The 1965 song, “These boots are made for walking,” was full of female swagger. The recorded footage of Nancy Sinatra singing the song shows her and her backup dancers sporting some sleek, black go-go boots, very popular at the time.

boots.JPGNancy Sinatra and her backup dancers’ boots

When it comes to boots for books, however, we want our swagger to be less bewitching and a little more sturdy, reminiscent of a 1970s punk rock work boot perhaps.

Modern punkModern Punk Girl circa 2018, photo courtesy of Jaconon

Are boots for books a thing? They are at the Sutro Library!  In the “If the Shoe Fits…” blog post published on January 3rd, I detailed the new bespoke book shoes our limp vellum books were getting thanks to Alan Scardera, Allison Bermann, and Allie Marotta, our intrepid SF State student volunteers. Phase one of this project was to get all the limp vellum bound books into a book shoe—a kind of box that is made out of conservation grade cardboard that supplies support for the books. From October 2018 to April 2019, the student volunteers made 113 shoes in seven months.

Not all of our limp vellum books could get a shoe, however, due to fragility or decorations that would not allow the books to easily slip in and out of the shoe without causing further damage to the book’s bindings. We could only move forward on phase two of the project once a storage solution was found for the fragile and/or decorated books.

Ties on Vellum bookLimp vellum book with leather ties remaining

damaged vellum bookLimp vellum book with severely damaged cover and fraying headcap

damaged no boardsBook missing both covers with sewn spine visible

Allie Marotta, one of the SF State student volunteers, tackled the problem by developing a new structure we are calling the book boot.

IMG_7570.JPGAn empty book boot created by Allie Marotta

The book boot looks a lot like the book shoe but with some critical differences. First, the boot has protective blue board covering the top part, or head edge as it is called, of the book.books.jpgShelved vellum books in shoes and boots

Second, the boot opens up like a clam. This allows the user to place the book inside the boot and then close the lid safely before tying up the ties, thereby making a complete and tight structure for the book:


The clam part of the structure is key as it will not cause rubbing or undue stress to the book as it is being removed and replaced from the structure.

Once phase two of this project is complete, we will move on to the final stage which will be to create shoes or boots for the limp vellum bound folio and tiny-sized books. While the project will pause over summer break, the students have already made 26 boots, and we look forward to fall semester when they return and take up the project again–just in time for darker days, colder nights, and boot season!


This post and all but one of the images are by Mattie Taormina, Director, Sutro Library.

3 thoughts on “These boots are made for….books!

  1. This is very cool. By any chance, do you have a recipe for creating this for home libraries with old books? I’d love to share it with our society.



    Carolyn Williams VP Marketing & Social Media San Mateo County Genealogical Society


    1. Hi Carolyn! We are delighted you enjoyed our book boots. A recipe is an interesting idea……there is one for book shoes but not for the boots as they are homegrown and were created by a student. When the students return to campus in September I can ask them to draw up plans on how the boot is created and share it with you–would that work?

      Here’s what information I can pass on to you now:

      The instructions to make your own book shoes can be found here:

      Materials can be found through Hollinger or Gaylord Archival Supplies. Here is a link to the board you make the shoes/boots out of:

      And here is a link to the tape we use:

      All the best,
      Sutro Library


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