There are two things that are common to pretty much all long-term book storage: the books are not going to be handled everyday, and they tend to have considerable worth that demands higher-quality storage units. Storage facilities that are susceptible to extreme temperatures and humidity levels can damage the condition of your book collection. Moreover, while it’s not usually the first box that gets a FRAGILE label slapped on it, careless storage handling and inadequate packing can also degrade the quality of the volumes you’re looking to protect.
From the history of book publishing to modern storage facilities, here’s what you need to know to safely and successfully store your book collection.
Recognizing Age and Value in Book Storage
- Manuscripts that are many centuries, or even thousands of years old, are so delicate that they may require specialized environments and diligent handling at all times. When it’s kept in the right storage conditions, vellum is actually more durable than modern paper. Modern, imitation vellum is commonly used for blueprints (a common type of document storage), as its translucent quality makes for easy tracing.
- Many aging books that don’t require extensive handling care may still be vulnerable to insect damage when left in dark, moist place. Mold and fungus can take hold in the paper and binding, which then attract bookworm insects. You may not need the same level of humidity control as, say, fine wine storage, but you should at least stick to storage facilities that are climate-controlled and well-ventilated.
- Most, though not all, modern books are at least somewhat resistant to this type of insect damage. This transformation to modern book publishing techniques occurred during the mid-20th century (look for the book’s publication year), but it’s impossible to put an exact date on when your book is safe. A different type of paper fiber was used, but many older types of bookbinding glue also served as insect food. Likewise, these changes were implemented at various times at different book publishing companies.
- With this in mind, many modern books also have value and a condition that needs to be safeguarded. This includes large art books and modern comics. Or you may also fancy yourself as a modern literary critic and book speculator: An unread, first edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone recently sold for nearly $40,000. That said, the most cherished books, especially family heirlooms, often have considerable storage needs even if they have less financial value.
More Tips for Book Storage
- Packing Tips for Your Books: From the orientation to the weight to organization and individual wrappings, packing tips for your book storage is available here.
- DIY Insecticide Treatment: Do you have a book with the telltale bookworm pitting? There’s an easy way to kill off any bookworm insects that may still be lingering in the pages and binding. Seal it in a plastic bag and freeze it for several hours.
- Specialty Storage and Handling: Have one or more books with specialized storage needs? Not sure if a book is going to be okay in a particular kind of facility? Looking for storage insurance with Valuables Coverage that applies to rare and valuable books? The ability to answer these kinds of questions is a great litmus test for the kind of customer service you can expect from that storage company.
Serious book collectors frequently run out of room to safely and effectively display their entire collection in their home living space. That doesn’t mean the overflow isn’t a valuable part of the collection. Don’t leave your old books and favorite volumes in the hands of a storage company that’s going to handle your books like they came from a grocery store paperback discount bin.