When displayed on a bookshelf or placed on a nightstand between readings, your books can be portals to other worlds, tools to expand your mind, and foolproof forms of entertainment. When you face spring cleaning, moving, going away to college, or a similar situation, however, your personal library can be your greatest challenge.
Unlike all but a few household items, books are both heavy and fairly fragile. Additionally, your books require a level of organization that’s not necessary when packing up pots and pans or seasonal clothing for storage. These characteristics can make it difficult to store books without damage or disarray.
In this blog, we separate the tomes in your library into categories and provide you with guidelines for each book type that can ensure your favorite reading material and coffee table conversation starters are ready for use when they come out of storage.
Antique, Out-of-Print, and Collectable
Rare, delicate, and specialty books present the most challenges in storage situations. These books are particularly vulnerable to all threats against books, like moisture, but are more sensitive to light exposure than other manuscripts.
If possible, store each of these books in individual acid-free boxes rather than in slipcovers, since slipcovers often leave the spine exposed and trap moisture against the book’s covers. If you do not have access to individual boxes, you can place small- to medium-sized antique books on a well-sealed metal or wood bookshelf.
Large or particularly wide collectable books may exhibit some warping if left upright for too long. Store these books lying on their back covers. You can stack these books as many as three high in a container if necessary.
When placing fragile books onto shelves or into boxes, think about how you will get them back out. Never place these books so close together that they will rub on each other or so that you will have to pull on the spine to get them back out
Always choose a humidity- and temperature-controlled storage unit for out-of-print tomes. Keep the interior of the unit temperate as both high and low moisture and humidity levels can affect these books.
While children’s books are often the sturdiest additions to any library, these volumes also tend to come in more shapes, sizes, thicknesses, and materials than any other book category. When you begin to prepare your children’s book library for storage, sort the books into board books, picture books of like size, and young reader chapter books.
You may want to clean board books with a damp cloth before putting them into boxes to avoid any complications caused by sticky smudges later on. Just ensure that each book has time to air dry completely. Board books can go into any storage box provided that you pack them flat and take care not to make the box overly heavy.
For your other children’s books, pack large picture books by themselves, and then integrate the remaining books into your hardcover and paperback collections as appropriate. Follow the guidelines for each of these book types below.
Before you begin to box up your remaining children’s books and your grownup collection, go through the books and remove any bookmarks and paper scraps, as these materials can stain or corrode pages over time.
When storing hardcover books, work with small boxes to avoid the risks that overloading can create for you and your books. You can use plastic bins or cardboard boxes for hardcover books as long as the containers do not have a distinct odor that the paper may adopt.
Always place like-sized books together to keep the box as balanced as possible. Place your hardcover books into their containers spine down. As with antique books, avoid packing your tomes so tightly that you’ll have to yank them out later.
Generally, paperback packing adheres to the same guidelines as hardcover packing. However, because paperbacks become damaged more easily, you should take more precautions, especially with books that have brittle covers.
Crate up your paperbacks in new cardboard boxes. While you can use slightly larger boxes for this section of your library, remember that paperbacks can be deceptively heavy since many more of them tend to fit in a single container.
Place paperbacks into their boxes flat on their backs. Avoid stacking larger books on top of smaller books, since the weight could shift during the storage period and bend any overhanging pages.
You may find that you have extra space in your children’s, hardcover, and paperback boxes. Instead of trying to fit one more volume into the gap, fill the space with archival paper or another book-safe packing material to minimize shifting.
Use the guidelines listed above to ensure that each type of book in your personal collection receives the care it needs to survive short- or long-term storage.
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