What is library paste?

If you’re old enough and stepped inside a library or school, chances are you’ve come across a jar of library paste. This sweet-tasting adhesive was once a staple in the world of paper and cardboard arts, but has since become less common in modern times.

In the following paragraphs we’ll delve deeper into its makeup and answer some common questions people have about “What is library paste?”.

What is library paste made of?

Library paste, commonly used in schools and libraries for paper and cardboard, is typically made from dextrin, a modified starch that is water-soluble. Dextrin is derived from cornstarch or potato starch through a process of hydrolysis, which breaks down the long chains of glucose molecules into shorter ones. This modification makes dextrin more soluble in water and gives it adhesive properties that make it suitable for use in library paste.

While dextrin is the main ingredient in most library pastes, there are other alternatives that can be used to create similar adhesives. Some formulations may contain starch, gum arabic, or bone glue along with dextrin to enhance the adhesive quality of the paste. However, these ingredients are less common than dextrin and may not provide as strong an adhesive as dextrin-based library paste.

Despite its decline in popularity over recent decades with the rise of digital media, library paste remains an important part of our cultural heritage and continues to be used by some artists and craftspeople today.

Is library paste edible?

You might be wondering if that sweet-tasting adhesive you used in school is safe to eat. The answer is no, library paste isn’t edible.

While it may seem harmless, it contains chemicals and additives that aren’t meant for consumption. Ingesting library paste can lead to potential health risks such as stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting.

Furthermore, even if the paste were edible, it’d have little to no nutritional value. Library paste’s primarily made up of modified starches and gums which provide little sustenance for the body.

It’s important to remember that just because something tastes sweet doesn’t mean it’s good for you. So while library paste may bring back fond memories of childhood art projects and homework assignments, it’s best left as a non-edible reminder of simpler times.


Unknown Man Died Eating Library Paste

The grave of an unknown man who died from consuming a deadly mixture of paste and chemicals serves as a stark reminder of the health risks associated with ingesting non-edible substances. The man, who is buried in Goldfield Pioneer Cemetery, Nevada, reportedly found the paste in the trash outside a local library.

The paste contained flour, water, and 60% alum – a concentration that proved to be fatal. Despite skeptics pointing out that the bright red paint on his headstone seems too fresh for a century-old grave, many believe that sympathetic cemetery-goers regularly repaint it to remember the unfortunate victim.

This incident highlights not only the dangers posed by toxic substances but also raises questions about alternative uses and cultural significance associated with library paste. While it was once commonly used in libraries and schools for paper and cardboard crafts, its use has declined over time due to advancements in adhesive technology. However, it still holds cultural significance as a nostalgic symbol of childhood craft activities.

As for its alternative uses, library paste has been known to work well as an inexpensive substitute for hair gel or even as an adhesive for flypaper traps – although both these uses are not recommended due to potential health hazards.

How to Make Library Paste

Learning how to make library paste can be a fun and useful craft activity. This paste is perfect for binding paper and paperboard, gluing together booklets, repairing old books, or even applying wallpaper for smaller projects. It’s easy to make with just a few minutes of cooking and can be applied sparingly with a brush.

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: Under $10


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon alum
  • 4 cups water
  • Optional: 30 drops of mint extract


  • Saucepan
  • Small jars for storage


  1. Mix all the ingredients except the mint oil together in a saucepan.
  2. Cook on medium heat until the mixture is clear and thick.
  3. Optionally add your 30 drops of mint extract as a preservative.
  4. Store in small jars, so that only a small amount is being exposed to air and dried out every time you open it.


  • This paste is ideal for binding paper and paperboard, making it a great choice for book-related crafts or repairs.
  • If you’re working on a small wallpaper project, you can also use this paste instead of buying a large quantity of commercial glue.
  • The optional mint extract acts as a preservative, helping to extend the shelf life of your homemade paste.
  • Remember to store the paste in small jars to minimize exposure to air and prevent it from drying out. Always seal the jar tightly after use.

Is Library Paste Still Used?

While library paste was once a popular choice for paper and cardboard projects, its use has declined in recent years due to several disadvantages.

For one, it tends to be less durable than other adhesives, causing papers to come loose over time. Additionally, it can attract insects if not stored properly.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to library paste that offer distinct advantages over this traditional adhesive. Some of these options include neutral pH PVA glue, which provides a stronger hold and is less likely to become brittle over time; hot glue guns, which allow for quick bonding of materials without the need for drying time; and double-sided tape, which is ideal for adhering lightweight items like photos or decorations.

Despite its historical significance in education and arts and crafts projects, it’s clear that library paste has been surpassed by newer technologies that offer better results with fewer drawbacks.


So now you know all about library paste! You’ve learned that it’s a water-soluble adhesive made from dextrin and other ingredients like gum arabic and bone glue. While it was widely used in the past for paper and cardboard, it has become less common in recent years.

But if you’re curious to try making some yourself, we’ve also included a recipe for how to make library paste at home.

One thing to keep in mind is that while library paste is generally safe for use with paper crafts, it’s not recommended for consumption. In fact, there have been reports of people becoming ill after eating library paste! So unless you want to risk an upset stomach (or worse), it’s best to stick with using library paste as intended – as an adhesive rather than a snack.

Overall, exploring the history and uses of library paste can be a fascinating journey into the world of bookbinding and paper arts.

About the author

Jennifer is a stay-at-home Mom who loves everything DIY and crafting. She contributes to Just Use Glue in order to share her practical knowledge of how to glue all the things.

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