Storing Books

I am a voracious reader. I have half a dozen books being read at any one time. Books become my friends and their stories wind their way into my heart. So, obviously, my collection of books is enormous. So enormous in fact, that I have had to store some of them away. But, storing books can be a tricky task. Just piling them into a box and putting the box on a shelf in the back of the garage, may not be the best idea. The garage is a changing environment with heat and cold and moisture and mold. So, I put together a “How To” on how to properly store all of the books in your library.

You need to first prepare for the storage of your books from pests and from the damp, the heat and the cold. Preparing allows the books to stay in their original condition and last for a very long time. Keeping the book dry is the most important part of storage. Do not wash or wipe the books with anything damp before packing them up. Dampness can create mildew and a musty smell.  If the book feels damp, let it air and dry out. Mildew will definitely set in during storage if the book is not thoroughly dry. If there are books that are already mildewed, you may have to keep them out of storage completely. As you pack up each book, clean them up by ridding them of dust. It is suggested to use a soft paintbrush to remove dust and dirt from the book’s cover and its pages. The brush can get into the deep crevices between pages. You will need to go page by page and check for insect eggs, which look like tiny black seeds and get stuck in between pages and the binding. If eggs are found, keep brushing and use a magnifying glass to make sure that you have gotten them all. Don’t use any type of bug spray because that causes the dampness you are trying to avoid and the spray will damage the paper in the book. .

Once the book has been dried, cleaned and brushed, then wrap them tightly. Dust jackets are excellent in that they are air tight and very affordable. They will protect books from tears and rips if a box is dropped and becomes haphazard. These covers will maintain the books value if there is an interest in resale. If the books, while being placed in a box, have space between them, stuffed that space with plain paper. Do not use newspaper as the ink may seep through and stain covers. Keep a bit of space between books for air. But pack them tightly enough that there is very little movement of books during the moving period.

Boxes are very important in this process because they have to be very sturdy and a size that you can actually lift up. Putting books flat down with the largest at the bottom and building up to the top of the box is the most logical way to pack. Keep the books piling upward by size and fill in the spaces with small books or packing paper. Softcover books can easily bend and hardcover books can get dents or gouges. Don’t bump the corners of the books or use adjustable corner picture corner savers to prevent the bending. Never rest a book on its spine as this may ruin the binding and the binding materials causing it to disintegrate.

Storing the books is next on the list. And several things need to be taken into consideration. Books should be kept in a cool, dry, low-humidity environment. They can be resilient to some conditions, but consideration for long term storage needs to be addressed. Packing the books properly will help in a changing environment such as a non climate controlled storage unit in a four season territory. Of course, a cool, dry environment is perfection. Don’t leave books in direct sunlight. And dampness will ruin the life of books. If your basement or attic has either of these symptoms, it is probably not the best place for book storage. Another rule for storing books is to not stack the boxes on the floor. If there is any type of flood or water catastrophe, the water won’t damage the box and then the books if they are store a few inches off of the floor.

Older books do better than newer ones in a storage atmosphere. Older books were made from a higher quality of paper pulp with less chemical usage in both the paper and the printing ink. Because all books are organic, they will age with time. The paper will yellow and the binding will become brittle. No matter how much protection, they will age. But like the saying says  “Old books, yes! They are the true comforters; and principally because they are old and familiar.” Vincent Starrett, Books Alive

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