Boston Reconsidered Blog Berry

How to Care for Your Home Library


Written by Nicole McAllister, Special Collections Librarian

We have them all over our homes, we probably don’t think too much about them, and they are there when we need them – it’s our books! Books are a great resource for reference, self-improvement, and a fun escape.  And there’s no better time to think about how to care for them than during Preservation Month.

When thinking about our book collections, there are safe areas and spaces to store them. Ideally, we would want to store our books on the main floors of our homes. This is not always easy, and they sometimes end up in attics, garages and basements. These places can cause unintended harm or damage to the books that you won’t see until you take them out of storage. There are a few things that can be done to protect the books. Here are a few tips and best practices on how to care for your home library. 

  • Store books in a stable environment when you can. A comfortable room at about 70 degrees and a moderate humidity of around 40 – 50 % is best. 
  • Try to avoid storing books in attics and basements. These spaces can run hot or cold, and mold and mildew can form. I know this can be hard to do, and it seems like an easy solution. (We all have done it!)
  • Keep books out of direct sunlight when possible. The ultraviolet rays can cause fading over time. 
  • Dust your books regularly to remove any build-up on the top edge or header of the book. Hold the book closed while dusting.
  • When shelving books, try to keep them upright and place similarly-sized books next to each other on the shelves so they can offer support to one another.
  • Keep the books upright using bookends, so the books are not leaning one way or the other. This can put stress on them. 
  • Lay larger and/or fragile books flat on shelves. This helps support them and not put pressure on the spine.
  • Books should not extend beyond the end of the shelf/shelves. They can be bumped and possibly damaged.
  • Remove a book from the shelf by gripping both sides of the spine in the middle of the book. Gently push the neighboring books on either side back to get a better grip on the book.
  • Do not force a book open so it lies flat in half. This can break the spine/binding of the book.
  • Fragile or special books should be boxed for protection. Boxes can be purchased or made to fit the books. 

Keeping books in a secure, dry environment can certainly be challenging at times, and there is a lot of information out there on caring for books. But with these tips and best practice suggestions, we hope you can prolong the life of your personal library. 

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