Knowledge Preservation: Three Essential Considerations For Long Term Storage Of Books

Posted on: 18 December 2014

Books may seem hardy, but you shouldn't just throw them in boxes and stack them in a storage place for long term storage. If that is all you do, then you may come back and find their covers torn, pages faded and generally in a sorry state. There are three main things you need to do correctly if you want to store your books properly, and they include:


Dirt and moisture accelerate the oxidation of paper, leads to staining, and also encourages mold growth. Therefore, you need to clean them (individually) before storage. Before cleaning, ensure that there are no objects (such as flowers, paper clips or even bookmarks) between the papers. Storing books with things between the pages encourages permanent creasing.

Hold each book firmly in your hands and use a magnetic dry cloth to wipe the spine outwards. The direction of wiping is important because it prevents dirt from settling into the spine of the book. This is enough for a book in a relatively clean state. For a very dirty book, however, vacuuming may be more useful.


When it comes to packing, several smaller boxes are better than one big box. Moving big boxes is risky due to their weight. Choose strong, clean boxes that are sealable. Keep these tips in mind while placing the books in the containers:

  • Avoid wrapping with newsprint because they will transfer their ink to your books (use plastic instead)
  • Don't pack the books at an angle; this may damage them.
  • If you have to place the books standing up, their paper edges should be facing down.
  • Place heavy books at the bottom and lighter books on top.
  • Fill spaces between individual books with bubble wrap or wadded-up paper to prevent shifting of books within the boxes.


Once you have packed the books and sealed the boxes, you can then start stacking them in your chosen storage place. The ideal storage location should:

  • Be dry
  • Have adequate air circulation
  • Stable (to prevent movement of boxes)
  • Clean

Many good self storage facilities will meet all of these requirements.

Place the boxes off the floor, away from the walls and with spaces between them. This is to prevent them from absorbing moisture from these places and for adequate air control. Place the boxes containing hardcover books (that are likely to be heavier) at the bottom and lighter books on top. Don't stack them too high because you may damage the books at the bottom, and you may also find it hard to lower top-most boxes without damage.

Do these three things and your books will be safe for a long time. Of course, you also have to choose a secure storage place where your books won't be vandalized or stolen.