Preventing Damage to Your Collection and What to Do about Damaged Materials

Preventative Steps

The best way to help preserve your book and paper materials is to prevent damage from occurring at all.  These are some simple measures you can take to ensure the longevity of your materials.

  • Store books and other collections in a cool, dry, dark environment
  • Keep food away from materials
  • Food attracts pests, and pests can damage any type of collection
  • Keep books away from animals
  • Pets can, and will, eat or otherwise damage collections
  • Wash your hands before handling materials
  • Dirt or oils from your fingers can leave behind stains
  • Use safe materials for marking pages or organizing materials, do not use post-it notes, paperclips, or rubber bands
  • The glue from post-it notes leaves behind a residue that permanently seeps into paper fibers, eventually causing irreversible discoloration and embrittlement
  • Paperclips rust and cause staining or tears when removed
  • Use bookmarks or paper to mark pages and archival folders and boxes to organize items

What to Do with Damaged Items

Sometimes damage is unavoidable. Disasters can occur, leaving materials wet and creating environments for mold, or materials just naturally deteriorate from use. Follow these tips for damaged books, but also consult the resources listed for more detailed instructions on disaster recovery and working with a conservator.

  • Repairs should be performed by professionals
  • Well-intentioned home repairs can cause irreparable damage, for instance, repairing a broken spine with pressure sensitive tapes can do a book more harm than good
  • Seek the help of a professional conservator if you wish to repair a valuable item
  • Respond quickly to disasters such as water damage or mold outbreaks
  • Water can permanently damage books but the damage can be decreased  by drying items promptly and properly
  • Mold can be hazardous to the health of both collections and humans, so moldy items should be treated as soon as they are detected


General Information

Damaged Books
British Library Preservation Advisory Centre

Storage Methods and Handling Practices
Northeast Document Conservation Center

Emergency Response

What To Do If Collections Get Wet
Library of Congress

Emergency Salvage of Moldy Books and Paper
Northeast Document Conservation Center

Conservation and Conservators

Frequently Asked Questions” (about conservation and conservators)
American Institute for Conservation

Hiring a Conservation Professional
American Institute for Conservation

Find a Conservator
American Institute for Conservation

Choosing and Working with a Conservator
Northeast Document Conservation Center