How to store your valuable books safely

Getting it right when you put your things in storage is the key to making your belongings last longer and stay in great condition. When it comes to books – like all paper items – a little bit of planning goes a long way.

So, if you are collecting second-hand books for charity or your collection has just outgrown your home, here are our tips for book storage.

packing books for storage

Prepare your books before you pack them

We generally don’t consider our books to be dirty – but you may be surprised at how mucky they can become. Check them over for food crumbs, remove any dust that they have collected while on your shelves, and be sure they are dry.

As books age the paper will naturally begin to break down – that’s why they develop a certain aroma, which some people love. The pages will yellow as well. This is all due to the chemicals used in the manufacture of the paper and the printing process.

Damp books will break down faster and age more – and could start to grow mould. So it’s worth taking the time to be sure they are clean, dry and well-stored.

Consider the best packing materials for your books

Depending on the length of time you are storing them and how valuable the books are, you may want to consider various options. Homemade dust jackets are a simple and cost-effective way to protect book covers, particular hard-backed books.

If your book already has a dust jacket, don’t assume you shouldn’t cover it again. A dust jacket is part of the original design for the book, so if your book is valuable you will want to preserve this as well.

If a book is particularly valuable you may want to consider wrapping it in bubble wrap to protect the corners and edges from denting during the move. Older books may contain hand-drawn illustrations – wrapping these in bubble wrap and taking care to keep these are the top of the box will keep these from being crushed.

blowing dust from an old book

Create a list

Before you start packing your books away, make a list of each title. If your plan is to sell your collection, you may also want to note special editions and first editions. Keep a plan of which box each book is in as well – it makes it easier to lay your hands on a particular volume when you want it.

Boxes of books

When you are picking the best boxes for your books, consider the storage facility you are going to use. Outdoor storage will be subject to temperature fluctuations, and more prone to damp. Plastic boxes will help to protect your books.

Indoor self-storage units will be temperature-controlled and keep damp and mildew at bay. Lower temperatures are actually better for your books, as they will prevent living things such as bugs and bacteria taking hold, and slow down the ageing of the paper. It’s important to make sure they are not too dry though, as pages can become brittle and break.

With indoor storage you can choose to use cardboard boxes instead of plastic, which will be a cheaper option. However, as they are not as sturdy you will need to make sure not to over stack your boxes and crush the bottom layers.

Place your books in the boxes lying flat; if you stack them on end, they may lose shape as the spine weakens. Make sure the largest books are at the bottom – firstly to avoid squashing them and secondly to make sure they don’t fall down.

very old books

Filling your unit

Placing your boxes on racking is an option that will help prevent the boxes from becoming flattened, and allow air to circulate underneath them, keeping damp away.

Where that is not an option, place your boxes in rows starting at the back of your unit so that you can access them all, and label them in line with your list. Try not to stack them too high – books are heavy.

If you have valuable items you would like to store safely and securely, talk to us about the various ways we can help – from packing boxes and bubble wrap to flexible contracts and a variety of sized units.