Most people who appreciate the art forms of writing and illustrations, as we do at SecondSale.com, choose to display their prized possessions. What many people do not realize, however, is that there are proper techniques to display and store these great treasures we call books.
Keeping your bookshelves as well as the books themselves clean and dry is very important, equally as so is keeping your bookshelves out of prolonged periods of direct sunlight. The sunlight can cause the ink to fade and warp. When cleaning your shelves, refrain from using any wet products. Your shelves only need to be dusted, as do the books. For the books, using a microfiber cloth is best or a brush (yes, a paintbrush or even a large makeup brush) to lightly dust off the exposed sides of the books.
When displaying books, you can use a combination of vertical and horizontal stacking to change up the look or go with one or the other – the aesthetic choice is yours. When placing books vertically, you want to ensure they are pressed firmly against one another without big gaps, as you do not want the books to slump causing harm to the covers or spines. Use bookends when you do not have enough books to fill an entire shelf.
Spines should be facing outward (or inward, facing the back of the bookcase if you’re not wanting to display the covers) and not down directly on top of the shelf. Larger books should be stacked horizontally, with larger books on the bottom.
When it comes to storage of items that you do not want to or can not display at the time, you’ll want to choose storage bins made from resilient, moisture-resistant materials. Archival boxes are made for this purpose but recycled plastic bins can be used to seal off your books from unwanted pests and moisture. If you choose the plastic route, ensuring all items placed inside are as dry as possible is necessary so that you don’t trap any moisture inside the bin’s air-tight seal. Moisture-absorbing packets can be placed inside to ensure the trapping of any excess moisture.
After lightly dusting them off, be sure to carefully look over each book as well as the bins before packing them to make sure you don’t have any pests waiting to nibble the pages while packed away.
You’ll want to wrap your books individually with acid-free tissue, such as paper towels, to protect against dust as well as keep the books from rubbing against each other while stored. Hardcover books with dust jackets are particularly fragile, so be sure to cover all edges to prevent cracking and tearing. Never use newspaper to package or pad the books as it is typically highly acidic.
It may seem like common sense, but you’ll want to place the heavier books on the bottom, and just like when they are on the shelf, package them so that they do not shift while moved around. Use additional archival paper or paper towels to fill in gaps in the box. Now that your books are packed tightly and sealed, the question becomes “where is the best place to store them?”
Many people would naturally gravitate to the two most popular places in the home for storage – the basement or the attic. These, however, are not the best idea. Most basements and attic spaces see huge fluctuations in humidity and air temperature, which are deadly to books. Ideally, a cool and dry environment is going to be best. If you have extra closet space or a section of your basement or attic that is finished and insulated, that should be fine. You’ll also want to store the boxes elevated off the ground to prevent any potential hazards or exposure to elements.
If you find yourself with boxes of books that you do not plan to ever display or enjoy further, why not pass them along to others who do have use for them? You have many options in the form of donations or you could sell them on a website such as sellbackyourbook.com. This site provides a fast, easy way to scan the ISBN numbers on your books to get a quote for their value. Once you activate your quote, you’re given free shipping labels to send them in and you’ll receive payment once they are received and inspected for quality. A little extra cash could help with your organization and home improvement efforts around the home or further fund your book obsession.