Sooner or later it happens. Someone brings in a CD or DVD and they’ve lost the case or the cover or both. Every library is different in what they do, but we don’t charge for these things as long as we have the working part of the item back, in this case the disc.

The reason we do that is that we can always get another case for the item, and we can generate cover art for it.  That way, we don’t have to discard it or charge the patron. We can just make a new case and cover and have the item back out on the shelf in no time.

With a little bit of measuring and some time in a desktop publishing programme (I use Microsoft Publisher but there are others. Try OpenOffice Drawing for a free one.) you too can make your own covers. Now, depending on how much work you want to put into these things initially, you can come up with something that saves time down the road. Here’s what I did for a DVD cover:

I wanted to make the whole thing from scratch so I snagged a good DVD cover and started taking measurments. I used metric measurements and you’ll find that most of these covers seem to have round number measurements in metric. I measured the overall width, height, and the width of the spine. That gave me the basic layout, but I wanted to make a cover template that I could import art into and get the thing printed quickly. So I took a few more measurements, but not of the cover. Instead I measured the labels we use on the DVD cases. Like most libraries we have a spine label (measured that), a property tag (measured that too), and multiple disc sets have a sticker describing the number of discs in the set (and I measured that as well).

Then I scanned the cover and imported the image into GIMP for a little editing. Those labels? I literally re-created them in separate high res images; all of them were pulled from the original scan. At that point I had images I could easily toss into Publisher and size appropriately based on my original measurements.

So after that it became a simple, but kind of time consuming process, to go into Publisher and set up boxes that matched all my measurements. I laid out a bordered rectangle with a dark line to make it easy to cut out. That was the whole cover. For the spine, I used a large text box with the text rotated 90 degree to the right. I overlaid another text box that was the same size and font as our spine labels, imported the other sticker images and placed them on the layout where they normally go.

Now, when we get in a DVD without a case or with a damaged case, all I need to do is hit up Google Images or Amazon to get the cover art, import it into Publisher, size it, print it. and cut it out.

Need a barcode? No problem. You can do that too. Barcode fonts are available and quite free. I use a barcode font that creates Code 39 style. The only caveat is that you have to put a star (*) at the beginning and end of a Code 39 barcode because the scanner uses that as a start/stop bit. Who cares? It’s not like anyone is going to be looking hard at your code. I created a template in Excel (Excel works best for printing out barcode fonts.) that matches the size of our barcode labels. It’s got our library name, the code (all preformatted to add the * bits), and I simply retype the number below the code in clear text. Print that out, use a barcode cover to stick it to the book, done.

But yesterday I did something different. We got a book in, a hardcover, with a chewed dust jacket. The book was fine, but the dust jacket was destroyed. Well… what works for DVDs can do it for books, right? So I did the same thing. Measured the book (which was the typical hardcover size), layed stuff out in Publisher, used my Excel template to make a barcode, imported cover art from the web, scanned the back cover (which wasn’t destroyed), and hit the print button.

If you set aside the one time template set up, everything took me about five or six minutes. That’s five or six minutes to create a new cover, a replacement barcode, and then cover it with a mylar jacket protector before taping it to the book. So instead of throwing out or charging a patron for an otherwise undamaged book, I got this:

Shelf ready in less than ten minutes.