The traditional way to become a bookbinder is through direct training in the workplace, where apprentices learn how to safely operate equipment while binding and handling books. Some binderies use mechanical equipment to mass produce bound books and reports, while others practice hand binding, an important skill for conservation of old volumes and the production of special editions. A prospective book binder should consider the type of work she wants to do when deciding how and where to train.
A high school diploma is helpful, although not strictly necessary, to become a bookbinder. Binderies generally look for employees with basic math and reading competencies, an interest in books, and a neat appearance, reflective of their ability to keep workspaces clean and orderly. For people who will work with rare and valuable books, it may be necessary to pass a security check. People interested in more archival work may want to consider a college degree where they can learn about restoration, antique materials, and the other tools of the trade.
A person who wants to become a bookbinder should look up binderies in the area and see if any are seeking employees. It can be a good idea to take a tour to see the working environment, meet staff, and make people aware of an interest in binding. Some companies may accept high school students as interns, giving people an opportunity to start training while in school. As people acquire more skills, they can perform more challenging tasks without supervision, and rise in the employee ranks.
People who specialize in hand binding potentially have an opportunity to seek careers in museums and other facilities where people restore, maintain, and care for old books. Once someone has become a bookbinder in a commercial bindery where contracts for hand bound books are fulfilled, that person can pursue more training in how to care for books, working in archives, and related matters. This experience can be useful when applying for positions in museums, libraries, archives, and other historic facilities.
For people who are not as interested in caring for old books, the path to become a bookbinder can be much quicker. They will need to learn how to operate binding equipment, developing the skills necessary to plan binding projects and execute them properly. This equipment is highly automated and often computers perform most of the calculations for the operator. People may want to consider pursuing careers as supervisors or heads of departments to access better wages and more opportunities.