Best Way to Pack Books for Storage

By Axl J. Amistaadt
Store your books in a dark, low-humidity environment.

Printers and bookbinders have used an endless variety of materials, components and construction techniques to produce books, with both good and bad results. Books in storage commonly but needlessly suffer from damage due to poor packing, improper environmental conditions, insects, rodents and mold. Most damage can be easily prevented by properly packing the books for storage.

Inspect Your Books

Examine the books that you wish to pack one by one, making sure that they are clean and dry.

Air-dry any books that feel damp or have a musty odor in a well-ventilated room.

Arrange to have moldy books properly treated by a conservator because mold can cause extensive damage to books. If you would rather not do this, set it aside and plan to pack it in a box by itself. Packing moldy material with other books will spread the mold to other books in the box.

Take dusty or dirty books outside and remove dust and surface dirt with a soft brush.

Check all books carefully for signs of insect infestation. Bugs can wreak absolute havoc on paper items. Search for unhatched insect eggs, which look like black poppy seeds. These are often found in the gutters between the book's pages. You can remove insect eggs with a soft brush. Make sure to discard the egg-filled brush when you are done.

Wrap leather-bound books individually in brown kraft paper or archival paper. Packing leather-bound books next to each other will cause them to stick together if they are exposed to moisture.

Packing Procedures

Obtain appropriate boxes for book storage. Use several smaller boxes instead of a large box. Books are heavy, and a large box full of them may be difficult to move. Boxes must be clean, dry, strong and sealable. Most ordinary cardboard boxes are fine, as long as they have not been used to pack food in. Food odors and residue will attract insects and rodents.

Wrap moderately valuable hardcover books individually in brown kraft paper before you put them in the box.

Pack books of great value individually in brown kraft paper. Place a stiff piece of cardboard in between each one. A well-padded box is best for storing these books. Plastic packing "peanuts" or bubble wrap should be used to line the box containing these.

Place paperback books and small or medium-sized hardcover books in a box either lying flat or standing upright. Packing books with the spines up and the paper edges facing down, or vice versa, will cause the books to warp and the pages to become bent.

Pack large books so that they are lying flat. Rotate them as you place them one on top of another so that the spines of one alternate with the edges of the next. Place the heaviest books on the bottom, with smaller, lighter books on the top of the stack.

Fill any empty space that is left in the boxes with wadded-up paper or bubble wrap so that the books do not shift around when the boxes are moved.

Close the boxes and seal them tightly with sturdy packing tape. Seal all box edges to prevent moisture and other damaging conditions from entering the boxes. Use heavy black markers to label the boxes.

Select Storage Location

Choose a dark, bug-free storage area with a stable, dry environment. Moisture germinates mold spores and encourages the eggs of insects to hatch.

Place the boxes off the floor on pallets or racks with several inches in between them, and several inches away from the walls. This will allow adequate air circulation. Do not place the boxes close to exterior walls, because moisture can be absorbed from the outdoor air. Do not stack the boxes, and don't stack anything else on top of them.

Check the storage area regularly for signs of moisture, insects or rodents, all of which will surely damage your books.

Tip

Pack upright books securely enough to keep them from tilting at an angle. They should not be stuffed so tightly together that they will be a challenge to unpack.

Warning

Do not store your books in basements, attics, garages or outbuildings. They should not be exposed to extreme fluctuations in temperatures or relative humidity.

Do not treat the storage area with mothballs or insecticides, as they can easily damage stored books.