Some book lovers are perfectly content to borrow most of their reading material from the local library. When they do purchase books, they have no problem reading them once or twice and then selling them to a used bookshop so someone else can enjoy them. However, there are also some book lovers who treasure their library and can’t imagine letting a single volume go. If you are a member of the latter group, you may find yourself at some point with a collection that just won’t fit on your shelves. If the amount of space in your home doesn’t allow for expanding your library, you’ll have to put some of those books into storage. The natural inclination may be to throw some books into boxes and stack those boxes in the most convenient corner of the house. However, books can be delicate, and if you want them to stay in the finest condition possible you’ll want to take the proper precautions before putting them into storage.
Don’t pack dirty books. If you pack books covered with dust, this grime can be passed onto other volumes, possibly leading to mildewing or staining or covers and pages. Preventing this is important for the overall quality of your books, but becomes even more important if you’re storing rare, valuable or archival quality books. Hold each book in your hand, firmly closed to avoid brushing anything between the pages, and wipe it down from the spine out using a magnetic dry cloth (available online).
Remove any bookmarks, scrap pieces of paper and pressed flowers from the between the pages of your books. These items are high in acid and can stain or even break down the pages of your books. Any paper clips or fasteners should also be removed as these can stain or tear pages of books in storage.
Pack books in smaller cardboard boxes as larger boxes will become too heavy once they’re filled (ideally no box will weigh more than 30 lbs. with 50 lbs. as the maximum). Books should be stacked flat; standing them on end will damage the spines over time. Fill each box as close to the top as possible. Do not go over the top as you want to be able to close each box completely and be able to stack them once they’re placed in storage. Fill any empty space in each box with wadded up acid-free paper. Avoid using newspaper (the ph levels are not appropriate for books and the ink can transfer from newsprint to adjacent surfaces over time).
Take the time to organize your book as you’re packing them. Label each box clearly and keep a full list of which volumes are in each box. This will make finding a particular book easier and it will let you know what has to be replaced in the event anything happens to an individual box.
If you’re using a self-storage unit, you should absolutely rent one that is climate controlled. Maintaining a constant level of humidity will help prevent your books from mildewing over time. You may consider placing a de-humidifier in your unit for added protection. Place wooden pallets on the floor and stack your boxes on these (concrete is porous and your boxes will absorb moisture from it over time if you stack you boxes directly on the floor). The heavier/larger boxes should be stacked at the bottom with lighter/smaller boxes at the top. For stability, avoid stacking boxes any higher than shoulder height. You should check on your books once or twice a month while they’re in storage. Look for any signs of boxes deteriorating or showing signs of moisture damage. Rectify any problems as soon as you see them.
For lovers of the written word, books can be among our most treasured possession. Taking proper care of them will ensure they provide endless entertainment for you and your family for generations to come.