It occurred to me as I was looking over my book shelves with a tempting edge of lazy procrastination (I’m still cataloging my books for insurance purposes) that many book aficionados have no idea how to store their prizes properly. Many buy books to merely read them. Others read and collect. I am a proud member of the later group. I read and collect books. I am a dedicated home library builder. This deep affection is accompanied by a few preservative responsibilities.
Store Your Books Properly!
First of all, you should never store books in a basement. This would seem obvious to many, but there are more than a few oblivious individuals who are - at this very moment - exposing their books to a mildew and mold inducing moisture. Not good! Also, don’t haul your books all the way up to the attic either! Most attics are excessively arid, hot and still (as in no air movement). The attic is the basement’s extreme - but equally detrimental - opposite. Both are very bad environments for your books.
Your book collection will find its environmental utopia in a darkened room with a stable thermostat set to 16ºC - 18ºC, with a relative humidity of around 50-60%. Sunlight is a natural enemy of books, and even a small amount will fade and warp a book over time. Cover any windows with heavy curtains. The room should be dry, but not excessively arid like the attic. A total lack of moisture is as detrimental as an excessive amount of moisture. Paper and book binding deteriorate under either extreme. So, a commercial humidifier might be a wise option for those preserving special or expensive collections.
Books should be shelved in an upright position (vertically). Larger books, however, should be stored on their sides (horizontally) to a prevent page/binding separation which can occur as a result of the weight of the book itself. I purchased a row of deep shelves specifically for my larger books, which needed to be stacked on their sides. Also, be sure to leave a bit of space behind your shelved books, for air circulation.
Vertically stored books should be shelved tight enough to prevent leaning, which leads to warping. Do not shelve your books so tightly that you are forced to rip at the binding to retrieve a book from your unit. Books like to be comfortably shelved.
Visit Your Books Regularly!
Books are like plants. They love to be visited and talked to. They love to be dusted on occasion too. So, don’t merely collect and shelve your books. Read them daily, even if only for a few minutes or so. Grab an old book you’ve had on the shelf for a while and reintroduce yourself to the priceless wisdom it contains between its covers. Book are wonderful. They are a privilege. Do enjoy them! Store them properly so your children can enjoy too!