Caring for Your Books

Books are ubiquitous in our homes, offices, schools, and community gathering places. Most of us have at least a few special books in our possession, even if we are not serious rare book collectors. Family bibles, books given to us as gifts, and treasured children’s stories from our youth are part of our lives and memories.

The ways in which we handle and store our important books can affect how long they will last and be available to pass down to future generations. Good conservation treatment for books is expensive, but at-home repair options will cause more harm than good. Books in disrepair should be housed in protective enclosures like cardboard or cloth-covered boxes. Simple paper wrappers can be used to protect small, thin books. Today there are online sources for inexpensive preservation-quality book boxes for individuals and private collectors. Organizing your books and exercising some care on the shelf will also prolong the useable life of your books. Always make sure that your books are out of the reach of pets who may prefer them to their chew toys.

Clamshell-style book box

Drop-front box with lid

Four-flap pamphlet binders

High Value Books

An autographed copy of Photographs by Annie Liebovitz from a personal collection

For books with special significance and value, like those signed by an author or a limited-edition comic book, protective sleeves can reduce or eliminate wear and tear. Be sure to use materials for wrappers that are of a high quality. Inert, clear polyester, polypropylene, or polyethylene sleeves allow the details of covers and dust jackets to remain visible. For rare or collectible books, consult with a professional conservator about repair or treatment options. Home remedies, no matter how well intentioned, can reduce the value of your books and necessitate more costly treatments down the road.

Sleeves or bags for thin publications

Clear covers for paper book jackets

Envelopes and slings for pamphlets and ephemera

Children's Books

Heavily used and worn children’s books are a staple of many households. If you are sure that these books will not be collectible or rare, you can consider do-it-yourself repair. Materials marketed for home repair of books do not meet standards for conservation. Replacement is also a good option when well-loved children’s books fall apart but are still required bedtime reading.

Document repair tape and mending tissue can be applied to tears and burnished with a bone folder as a quick DIY fix on low-value books.

PVA glue is widely available and can be applied to reaffix detached covers.

Bookshelf Best Practices

Prev Next