As more and more people shift their reading collections to their tablets—or don’t even read at all—a good book collection is something to be proud of. But while digital books are timeless, physical books have a definite lifespan—one that adverse conditions can shorten quite a bit. Part of taking pride in your library is taking the proper care to keep your books in good condition. Follow these steps on how to care for your book collection so that you can maintain classics to pass down through generations.
Keep Out of Direct Sunlight
Whether they’re paperbacks, hardcovers, or leather-bound books, exposure to direct sunlight can take its toll on your library. Ultraviolet light can give your skin a lovely tan, but it can strip the dyes from your books, leaving them discolored and unsightly. UV rays also speed up the oxidation of the paper, so while all books will eventually yellow over time, ones that experience heavy UV exposure will yellow much more quickly. Try to avoid positioning your bookshelf parallel to a window that receives a great deal of sunlight.
A spine is as important to your book as it is to your body. As the spine of a book deteriorates, pages will inevitably begin to separate and fall out. Don’t find yourself with missing pages or chapters: check on your books’ spines periodically, and catch damage early with binding tape and adhesives.
Keep Away From Moisture
Hiding books from heat and humidity can be difficult in Florida, but it’s a necessary step to preserve your collection. Moisture is a sworn enemy of books: not only does it accelerate oxidation, but it also encourages the growth of mold and mildew in your pages. Heat can also cause paper to deteriorate, especially in older books. Keep treasured books out of basements, where moisture can be at its highest. Of course, there aren’t many basements in South Florida, but attics and garages are equally troublesome locations for your books.
The accumulation of dust on your books isn’t just bad for your allergies; it’s also bad for the paper in your books. The acid content of dead skin, pollen, and pet dander can slowly break down the fibers in the paper, causing it to yellow and break. Make sure to dust regularly using a soft cloth. For heavy dust cover, use the brush attachment on your household vacuum cleaner or a smaller handheld model.
It sounds like an obvious aspect of how to care for your book collection, but be sure to store your books upright when possible, and when not possible, stack them on their sides. Never store a book spine-down or with its open side down. Also, don’t place your bookshelf on an exterior wall of your home, which is more prone to temperature changes than an interior wall.