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For book lovers, finding an elegant tome can be just as exciting as discovering treasure is for an explorer. Coming across a book you’ve been hunting for years--or simply finding one that’s a great read--can make you feel complete, in a way. Collecting and storing them, however, can become problematic if you don’t have the room or aren’t sure how to properly take care of them. The downside to physical books is that they deteriorate with age, and for someone who likes to collect rare, hard-to-find, or vintage tomes, that can become an issue pretty quickly.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can take care of your collection and get it in good shape. You may need to make some hard decisions--such as letting go of some volumes to make room for new ones, or putting away a particularly damaged one so that it won’t fall apart--but they are necessary if you want to continue building your collection.
Keep them clean
It’s tempting to curl up with a good book on a rainy night with a cup of tea and some chocolate, but it’s best not to eat and read at the same time so that the pages won’t get damaged. Also, any food spilled on the pages could attract bugs, which can do some damage to a book. Keep your hands clean while handling them, and use dust jackets when you can. Dust your bookshelves regularly and, when reading a particularly old book, think about wearing gloves so the oils from your fingers don’t damage the pages.
For both books you read every day and the older, more collectible ones, you’ll want to store them away from sunlight and moisture. Keep bookshelves clean and well away from windows where sunlight and weather can affect them.
Shelve your books vertically, and make sure they aren’t packed too tightly together as this can damage the spines. Try to keep books of the same height together to avoid putting stress on them. Stay away from plastic bags, as these can trap moisture and bacteria that are harmful to books. Instead, look for a Brodart jacket. These are clear jackets that protect books and can be slipped on right over the dust jacket.
Use a bookmark
As most book lovers will tell you, using a bookmark is a must when you need to keep track of where you left off reading. Never dog-ear the pages or use anything other than a flat paper or cardboard bookmark that is chemical-free.
There comes a time in many book lovers’ lives when they must think about storing some of their collection to keep it safe or to prevent any more damage from occurring. If there are several books that are taking up space in your home that don’t get taken down anymore, consider storing them. Safe storage usually means placing them vertically in a box, although if they aren’t too thick you can store them horizontally. The important thing is to not place too much weight on your books, as this can warp the spines. Don’t place too many books into one box, either, as this will leave them misshapen over time and make the boxes very heavy to move.
If possible, place Brodart jackets over the volumes that are especially old or valuable. Do not place plastic of any kind in the boxes, as chemicals can leach from the material onto the books and damage them. Make a packing list as you go and tape it to the outside of the box so you can easily find your favorite books. For help on how to get started with the job of storing your books, head over to Closetbox for some great tips.
You might also consider donating some of your collection--especially the pieces that are harder to find--to libraries or museums; this way, they will get some practical use rather than being stored away in a dark box. Books with sentimental value can be given to a loved one; think about the stories you loved to read as a child and present that book to your own son or daughter, or to a grandchild. It might be hard to separate from a beloved volume, but it can be extremely rewarding to see another generation enjoying something you loved so much.
Remember that book collections should be enjoyed by many generations, so keep yours looking new by treating each volume like it’s special. Teach your children or grandchildren about the importance of taking care of books and how they can benefit from them at any age.