Caring for Your Books

The Storage Environment

In order to preserve your personal library, you should consider the environment of the storage area.  Books are made of different materials that are all sensitive to heat and humidity.  To get a good idea of where you should store your books, you can start by considering what sorts of environments you are comfortable in.   For instance, most people are uncomfortable in a cold, dark, damp basement, or a hot, dry attic, and both of these areas would also be a poor storage environment for books.  For the preservation of your personal book collection, consider the following storage tips.

70° Fahrenheit and 50% Relative Humidity (RH) is an ideal environment for book storage

·        Hot, dry conditions lead to brittle paper and leather

·        Damp storage conditions lead to mold growth

Store books in an area with a fairly consistent temperature and relative humidity

·        Fluctuations can cause warping and cracking of materials

Keep books away from direct sunlight and other light sources

·        UV rays from the sun can cause fading and deterioration

·        Fluorescent lights also emit UV rays, so turn off the lights when they are not required

Keep storage areas clean

·        Regular dusting prevents the attraction of insects that eat books

·        Store books on bookshelves with doors to minimize dust

Store books upright on shelves

·        Storing books on their spines or their sides can cause distortion and damage to the structure of the book

·        Use bookends to prevent books from slumping or falling over

Keep book shelves on interior walls

·        Effects of outdoor climate change is lessened if books are stored on interior walls

·        Bolt bookcases to walls to prevent the case from toppling over

Do not store books in plastic containers

·        As they age, many plastics release emissions that can harm your collections

Do not store books in an area that you know may flood or have leaks

·        Water can permanently damage books

Even minor improvements can have a lasting effect on your collections; simply moving books a few feet away from the direct sunlight from a window, regular cleaning, or moving books out of a box and putting them upright on a shelf can prolong the life of your collection.  For more valuable or older materials you may wish to take further steps.  For more tips and guidelines on storage environment and collection care, explore the resources below.


Temperature, Relative Humidity, Light, and Air Quality: Basic Guidelines for Preservation
Northeast Document Conservation Center

Low Cost/No Cost Improvements in Climate Control
Northeast Document Conservation Center

Care, Handling, and Storage of Books
Library of Congress

Caring For Your Treasures: Books
American Institute for Conservation

Basic Care of Books
Canadian Conservation Institute

Damaged Books
British Library Preservation Advisory Centre