At one time I thought the best way to preserve a book long term was to place it in a ziplock bag and put it somewhere dark. I rather figured no moisture, no mold, no nothing and therefore the book would be better preserved. Let’s just say….Wrong!
Old books need to “breathe”. When locked away without ample moisture in the air, the natural materials become brittle. Pages of the book become easily torn and the bindings begin to break down.
So, here are some tips to storing your books long term that will permit them to keep their value as well as preserving them.
Do not store in basement or attic. Both these areas have “extremes” such as heat, cold and humidity.
Store them upright making sure that they have support on each side whether that be from other books or a bookend. Do NOT lean the books like in the photo.
If the bookcase has an open back, do not put the bookshelf on an outer wall. If you have no choice, do not push the book all the way in. Moisture does come through the wall. You need some space so that the moisture can dissipate before reaching your books.
Air needs to circulate around your books. Make sure your shelf is high enough to permit air to move over the top of the books. Also, do not pack your books too tightly on the shelf.
Do not have your books in direct sunlight. Sunlight will bleach the cover of the book.
Do not use an unpainted bookshelf. It can release damaging acidic vapors. You can line your shelves with acid free board to get around this problem.
If you have books that you are concerned about and want to protect long term, there are archival sleeves or archival boxes that can be purchased.