Preventive Maintenance for Books

There’s no doubt about it, spring is on its way! Although today it is very cold here, so that might seem hard to believe. Nevertheless, warmer temperatures will be with us soon, and air conditioners will be humming once more.

With a change in the weather in mind, it’s time to do a quick assessment of your book collection’s health.

  1. Make sure your books are not in the basement or attic, where temperatures fluctuate the most, and the air can be very damp.
  2. Check that your books are not on an outside wall, where dampness can settle into them.
  3. Move shelves away from the blast of heating and cooling vents.
  4. Make sure your books aren’t jammed too tightly into their shelves, so they can breathe. Ensuring proper air circulation helps to prevent damage caused by moisture.
  5. Give those treasures some love with a duster. Dust and other particulates that settle onto the tops of books are harmful too, if it is not removed from time to time.
  6. Be sure to keep your collection out of direct sunlight: light damage is cumulative and irreversible.

I’m sure these tips are already in practice for the majority of my readers, but just in case anyone needed a reminder, I hope this short list was helpful.

Happy Spring, and happy reading! xo

Bookstagram

Keep your treasured books safe!

Hi everyone! I hope wherever you are, you are seeing signs of spring. We had a bitterly cold weekend, but I hope that was the last of the winter’s rage. Speaking of winter, and the cold, I thought now would be a good time to remind you that while books can last a very long time, they need to be cared for properly in order to do so.

Important-to-remember rule #1: Moisture and books do NOT go well together.
Try to keep you bookshelves on interior walls, and out of damp places like attics and basements. Mold loves paper, and it doesn’t need much help to start growing. As well as avoiding the damp, make sure you don’t jam books on your shelves if you’re running out of space (like I always seem to be). Proper ventilation around and through bookshelves will help keep your books from getting moldy or musty.
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image retrieved from Redwood Environmental Services

 Important-to-remember rule #2: Light damage is cumulative and irreversible.
Have you noticed that posters or fabric that regularly get a lot of sun fade or discolor? Even things that might not get direct sun will fade over time, and books are just as susceptible to light damage as anything else. That’s why if you go to see a museum exhibit that features books, the lighting is very dim. And if you go more than once, the book(s) on display will likely not be turned to the same pages, because the curator wants to limit the amount of light that the pages get exposed to. Light not only causes fading and discoloration, but it speeds the chemical breakdown of books as well, leading to brittle pages that crack and break more easily. Try to keep your books away from light, and especially out of direct sunlight.
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image retrieved from NEDCC

I’ll keep this post short and sweet, as those are the two biggies in terms of damage, and also the two causes of damage that are easiest to prevent. For those of us who don’t live in a museum, and who don’t have all the latest tech at our fingertips to control humidity and light, keeping your books out of the damp and out of the sun is a good start!

Healthy Books in the Winter

Now that the weather is turning cold, I wanted to remind everyone out there to make sure:

  1. your books are not under a heating vent, on a radiator, or near a heat source.
  2. your books are not housed on an outside wall that gets cold (or warm, or damp)
  3. your books aren’t in direct light or too tightly packed on a shelf

When your books are near a heat source, they dry out and the paper will become brittle and break more easily. Fluctuating temperatures aren’t healthy for your books, and neither is too much moisture, as that can cause mold growth. Light damage is cumulative and irreversible, so the less light that reaches your books, the better!

For more in-depth tips on book health, be sure to click on Healthy Books in the menu on the right-hand side of the page. Thanks for stopping by!
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In the Library by John Arthur Lomax

Are Your Books in Good Hands?

As we all know, books have been around for centuries, and many have survived to prove that fact. Tragically, most books printed today (mass market, trade publications) are predicted to last a mere 60 years. Why? Because of the mush they’re made of that breaks down quickly and is very acidic – unlike the rag paper that was used in the 15th century that still survives today.
IMG_1440  abtre14
*second image retrieved from http://www.collaborations.com/Ebay/abtre.htm

So while caring for your books may seem pointless if your collection is largely composed of recently published popular books, every little effort helps in making sure they last as long as possible. If you’re a regular follower of this blog (thank you!!) you will have seen various posts in the Healthy Books category here, but today I thought I would point the way to others who have also published quick tips on what to do (and what NOT to do!) to keep your books healthy.

  1. Care For Your Collectible Books: 18 Essential Tips by emptymirrorbooks.com
  2. How To Care For Your Books: 5 Tips by apartmenttherapy.com
  3. Dos and Don’ts for Taking Care of Your Personal Books at Home by the New York Public Library
  4. How To Care For Your Books by the Washington Post

Say it with Infographics!

I just paid a visit to piktochart.com and created my first published Infographic. This tool is amazingly easy to use and I think every librarian should know how to create an Infographic. Visuals are everything these days, so if you want to convey a message to patrons, say it with graphics!

Here’s what I just made. It isn’t spectacular, but it’s not bad for a first attempt:
Infographic

Healthy Books: The Basics

We have looked at some important aspects of keeping your books healthy earlier in this blog (see the Healthy Books link on the right side of this page – you’ll have to scroll down to find it). But be sure to always keep these basics in mind:

1. Keep food and drinks away from your books. For obvious reasons.
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*image retrieved from barnesandnoble.com

2. Always wash your hands before handling your books, and also avoid using lotions or hand sanitizers. In the past, it was common for rare book collections to require the use of gloves when patrons handled their books, but that practice is falling out of use now. With the reduced sensitivity that comes from having your fingers covered, brittle and fragile pages were suffering the effects. According to the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), “[m]ost of the dirt on book covers and pages is accumulated grime from oily fingerprints. While invisible initially, finger grease becomes all too visible as it oxidizes and collects dirt.” (http://www.conservation-us.org/about-conservation/caring-for-your-treasures/books#.VOj9dEIh428 Handling & Use, para. 2)
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*image retrieved from http://www.instructables.com/id/Intro_1/step5/Finisheddirty-hands/

3. Support the covers of your books. Opening a book the full 180* (or even worse – more than 180*!) is very hard on the spine. This rule is especially important for old and fragile books. There are many different types, sizes and angles of supports, and they can be very easily constructed or purchased.
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*image retrieved from bindingobsession.com                    * image retrieved from www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk

Here are some useful links to professional advice on caring for your collection:

Library of Congress – Care, Handling and Storage of Books

AIC – Caring For Your Treasures: Books

National Library of Scotland – Caring for rare books

A Book’s Worst Enemy #2

Number Two – Light

This post is going to be brief, because the message I hope to convey is really simple: Damage from light is cumulative and irreversible

With that important tidbit in mind, be sure to keep books you care about away from a lot of light. Archives, museums and libraries that have rare and/or culturally significant books keep them in cool, dark places unless they have to be on display, in which case they make sure the light in the display area is low, and they put ultraviolet filters over windows if they can. Books that have to be open are not kept open at the same page for the duration of the display because of the damage that would occur to the open page.

While all light isn’t great for books and paper, it’s the ultraviolet radiation in light that is the most active and therefore the most potentially damaging. Light bleaches paper and will cause inks and dyes to fade. Conversely, light can also make poor-quality paper darken. In addition to the aesthetic damage that occurs when paper is exposed to ultraviolet radiation, light speeds up paper’s oxidation, making it weak and brittle. Did you know that along with natural sunlight, fluorescent light contains ultraviolet radiation as well?

Just to review:

  • Light (especially ultraviolet radiation) is damaging to paper and books
  • Keep your books away from light as much as you can – apply UV filters to windows if you really want to protect those books
  • Light will weaken, bleach and/or darken your books