For those who love books, a good book is more like a friend than a possession, something to be cared for and cherished. Others see a good a course in miracles as valuable only if it is used, almost abused, and shows the age and wear of time and use. For these people, a good book should have a well-traveled cover, creases in its spine, highlighting of enlightening passages, and dog ears throughout. But for those who like to treat their books like treasures, keeping them secure and intact, ready to read another day, proper book care is important. Following are a number of tips to help you properly care for your books, many of these gleaned from the annals of the United States Library of Congress, arguably one of the greatest book repositories in the world.
Keep Your Books Clean The Library of Congress houses a tremendous collection of old books, and they know how to care for them. Their top suggestions for caring for important books is to keep the books clean by always washing and drying your hands before touching them and never keeping food or drink on the same table, or above, your books. You also want to avoid oil (such as that found on your fingertips) and dust, which can wear away bindings, glue, covers and pages.
Avoid Humidity like the Plague Humid conditions can give rise to a variety of molds and bacteria, many of which thrive on paper and leather. While a little bit of musty smell might feel comfortable and academic, the little microbes that cause this old book smell are very damaging to your treasure troves of information. Keep your books in a clean, dry place, preferably one that is temperature controlled and always cool. But don’t let them get too dry, like in an attic, or the pages (and leather covers) can tear or even fall apart.
Handle with Care We all love to buy new books, but caring for the old ones is really more efficient, at least when it comes to those books that have meaning for us. How you handle a book will promote its longevity. When you remove a book from a shelf, for example, grab the book carefully and firmly, with your hand wrapping around the spine, grasping cover to cover – never just pull at the spine or you could dislodge or damage the binding. When you open the book, especially an old hard cover, do not lay the book flat as this stresses the spine. Instead, prop the front and back covers up so that the book is only opened enough to read, not lying flat.
Pretend Your Books are Vampires Light can have an extremely damaging effect on papers, pigments and inks. Keep your most precious books out of direct sunlight. And absolutely keep them away from open windows, ventilation shafts and other drafts or sources of humidity and dust.
A Closed Cabinet is Best for the Cream of the Crop How you store your books, as far as location and stacking, is important. Lean your books on their side, straight up and down (not leaning to one side), so they are perpendicular to the ground. Place like sized books together so that the cover of each book is well supported against the next, and use large book ends to ensure the same on the ends. One of the most important things that you can do to keep your books protected is to place them in closed cabinets, in temperature and humidity controlled rooms, at a height where you must get a stool to access them, preventing anyone from idly grabbing a book and thumbing through it.