I’m sure that most readers would agree that books are precious objects that deserve to be treated with respect. Some of us even prefer the company of books to people. We all have our reasons why we love books. Some enjoy reading fantastic tales to escape reality, while others value them for the history and knowledge they contain. Some books also represent a critical moment in our history, which is why we should strive to preserve them to the best of our abilities.
Just because you’re not a curator or an archivist doesn’t mean you don’t need to learn how to care for books and other printed material. Let’s say you’re a school librarian with a vast collection of fiction books. You might not follow the same meticulous preservation standards of national libraries or museums, but you still need to care for books nonetheless.
A little bit of care and attention can extend the life of the books in your collection.
Store them in the proper environment
You need to store books in a serene, stable environment. If it’s too hot or humid for you, then it’s not good enough for your books either.
Ideally, you want to keep the library at room temperature, although lower temperatures are better for most types of books. You also need to keep the humidity within the 40 to 50 percent range. Too much moisture and heat can lead to a mold infestation and a shorter book lifespan.
Keep away from light
While no one wants to stay in a dim library, too much light can damage the books. Harsh lighting and ultraviolet exposure makes the paper more brittle and slowly strips the color away from the book covers.
Of course, it’s not feasible to turn off all the lights in your library. You can keep circulating books where they are, but if you have rare or one-of-a-kind printed materials, you might want to designate specialized storage for them.
Dust your books
Dust buildup can eventually ruin your books. Paper is quite porous, and after a while, the dirt sets into the material and becomes impossible to remove.
To clean rare and valuable books, just wipe down the exposed surfaces with a clean, soft towel. You can also use a low-power vacuum with a soft brush to clean your general circulation books.
Shelve them properly
There is a proper way to shelve books, and that’s by placing them upright. Don’t forget to support them with bookends to keep them upright and prevent heavy books from leaning against surfaces.
Only keep books of the same size together. If you have heavy or oversized volumes, you might want to store them separately. Place them flat on their backs instead of an upright position.
Once you start taking care of your collections, you won’t have to replace them as often. And who knows? Maybe your first-edition books might become more valuable someday if you keep them looking like they just got off the printing press yesterday.