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How to protect your books long term

by News7

Proper preservation can protect your books from deterioration, ensuring they remain readable and aesthetically pleasing.

Posted on May 29, 2024 9:36 AM EDT

Protect your precious book collection. DepositPhotos

Books are not just sources of knowledge and entertainment but also cherished possessions that can be passed down through generations. By preserving your books, you can ensure they remain in excellent condition for years, whether part of a personal library or valued as collectibles. Learn about the best practices for book preservation, including appropriate storage methods and handling techniques.

Choose the Right Environment

For optimal preservation, storing books in a climate-controlled environment is crucial. Maintaining a consistent temperature between 62-72°F (18-21°C) is ideal, as significant fluctuations can lead to deterioration of the materials. Similarly, humidity levels should be kept around 40-50 percent. This balance prevents the pages from becoming too dry, which can cause them to become brittle or too moist, which may lead to mold growth and damage the binding.

To further safeguard your books, ensure that the shelves or storage areas are free from acids and other potentially harmful chemicals commonly found in some types of wood or finishes. Using bookshelves made of metal or sealed wood can mitigate potential risks. Regular inspections and cleanings can also prevent dust accumulation, which can attract pests and further damage books.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

Sunlight’s ultraviolet rays visually damage books and increase paper acidity, speeding up the aging process. To maintain your books’ color and structural integrity, store them in locations shielded from direct sunlight. UV-filtering window films and blinds can provide additional protection, minimizing the harmful effects of sunlight. Fluorescent lighting, which also emits UV rays, can similarly harm books. Therefore, even indoor lighting should be considered when positioning your library. 

Keep Clean Hands

It is important to keep your hands clean before handling books to preserve their condition. The natural oils and dirt on our hands can transfer to the pages, causing damage such as staining, reduced paper quality, and increased brittleness. There’s no need to wear gloves; just make sure your hands are squeaky clean.

Support the Spine

Remember to support the spine of a book to minimize stress on its binding, which can lead to damage over time. When opening a book, place it on a flat surface or use a book cradle to reduce tension on the spine and prevent covers from detaching. For hardback books, let the front and back cover rest on the surface while keeping the spine against a flat surface to maintain the book’s structure and durability.

Inspect Regularly

Regularly inspect your books for signs of damage from pests, as they can cause irreversible damage to your collection. Look for signs of pest activity such as small holes, gnaw marks, or live pests. Keep your storage areas clean, dry, and well-ventilated to deter infestations. Use protective coverings and avoid direct contact with floors and walls to shield your books from potential threats.

Use Acid-Free Materials

It’s crucial to store books in acid-free boxes and wrap them in acid-free paper for long-term preservation. Acid-free materials prevent degradation caused by acidic compounds in standard paper products, which can lead to yellowing, brittleness, and deterioration. These materials provide a stable, inert environment, protecting books from environmental pollutants and pests attracted to conventional paper. 

For the best protection, it’s advisable to use boxes and wraps specifically designed for archival purposes, ensuring they are pH neutral and won’t transfer harmful substances. Additionally, when storing valuable documents, photographs, or collectibles alongside books, it’s equally important to use acid-free folders and enclosures to organize and safeguard items and prevent harmful interactions between different materials.

Basic Repairs

When dealing with minor damages like torn book pages, it’s crucial to use the right materials to ensure long-lasting repairs without further harming the book. Archival-quality tape or glue is specifically designed for this purpose. Unlike regular adhesive tape and glue, an archival variety is pH neutral, which prevents it from yellowing over time and leaving behind a damaging residue that can further deteriorate the paper. 

Regular Cleaning

Remember to keep your books clean by regularly dusting your bookshelves and books. This helps prevent the accumulation of dust and grime that can damage them over time. It is best to use a very soft brush or a clean cloth for this purpose, especially on the top edges of books where dust commonly settles. This practice not only keeps your books in good condition but also contributes to the longevity of their materials by preventing the abrasive effects of dust particles.


Digitization is an essential strategy for preserving rare or valuable books. It allows their content to be saved with minimal physical handling. Converting these materials into digital formats makes the information more accessible and less susceptible to wear and tear that can degrade original copies over time. Digital files can be efficiently stored, managed, and accessed, ensuring the content is safeguarded for future generations without exposing the original items to potential damage.

Other things to know

When should I seek professional book restoration?

Professional book restoration services are recommended for books with high historical or monetary value, severe physical damage, or lacking personal repair skills. 

What should I do if my books get wet?

If your books get wet, shake off excess water and stand them upright on an absorbent towel. Place absorbent paper between the pages and replace it once damp. Dry the books in an area with good airflow or use a fan. Once dry, place the books under heavy weights to smooth out any wavy pages.

Preserving your books requires a combination of proper storage, careful handling, and regular maintenance. By following these tips, you can ensure that your cherished books remain in excellent condition for generations to come. Whether you are a collector or simply an avid reader, taking these steps will help you maintain the longevity and beauty of your book collection.

Source : Popular Science

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