By Vince Mancuso, Storage.com
Books can take us from our current world and place us in one of fantasy, open our minds to new ideas, or remind us of lessons learned long ago. Whether you’re reading up on history or exploring a dystopian future, these beloved sources of entertainment and knowledge can quickly take up space.
With an array of size options, a storage unit can handle a personal book collection that’s getting too big for your apartment or cluttering a room in your home. In addition, amenities like climate control can help preserve the condition of your books during their stay in storage so you don’t have to worry about damage.
“The biggest advantage is peace of mind, knowing that your books will be in a safe location and taken care of properly,” says Abdel Ramirez, manager with Value Store It in North Lauderdale, Fla. Ramirez adds that downsizing a home and keeping a personal collection to pass down to later generations are two of the main reasons why people decide to store books.
While using storage is a big benefit for storing a book collection, there are certain things to keep in mind.
Why Climate-Controlled Storage Is Necessary for Books
One of the most important features you’ll need when storing a book collection is climate-controlled storage. This amenity essentially acts as a heater, air conditioner, and humidifier (or dehumidifier) to maintain a constant temperature and humidity level within your unit. Humidity, of course, is the biggest concern.
“When storing books, climate control is a must,” Ramirez explains. “Humidity will create moisture on the paper leading to mold, which will ruin any book.” But it’s not just high levels of humidity that can cause problems. Low humidity can also damage your books.
“Extremely low [humidity] can lead to embrittlement of paper,” says Mary Page, President of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, a division of the American Library Association.
While there are other factors in preserving books, Page says the best way to preserve your collection in storage is to keep temperatures from exceeding 70°F and ensure humidity is between 30% and 50%. This protects books from both embrittlement and mold growth. “Fluctuations in relative humidity cause physical deterioration, as parts of books expand and contract depending on the relative humidity,” she adds.
How to Prepare a Book Collection for Storage
“Prior to putting your books away, make sure they are clean and dirt free,” says Ramirez. Dirty books are capable of transferring dust and grime that can stain and damage other books.
As an extra layer of protection, he says you can wrap your books in a cloth. “Also, take inventory of what you are putting away. This way, it will save you time when labeling your boxes.”
As for what types of boxes you should use, Page recommends finding acid and lignin-free boxes. “Acid-free products will not contain acids that can [damage] the collections that are being stored,” she says. “[These] products are also stable, so they will remain intact and sturdy and protect your collection in storage.”
It’s important to keep track of how many books you place in each box as well. “We all know that a big box of books is very heavy, so take consideration to use small cardboard boxes about four to six book in a box, depending on the size of the book,” says Ramirez. “This will facilitate your move if you need to be shifting them around.”
Organizing Your Books in Self Storage
Given the weight and potential size of your book collection, Ramirez says it’s wise to make sure each box is set squarely on top of the other to avoid any tipping. Additionally, he recommends that you don’t stack boxes any higher than your shoulders. “You’re going to want to be able to remove the boxes comfortable from the top without hurting yourself or dropping the box.”
Also, remember that the floor of your unit (especially if you’re on the ground level of the facility) is vulnerable to flooding, which can also damage your books.
“We recommend wooden pallets on the floor of the unit to avoid moisture absorption from the concrete,” says Ramirez, adding that an alternative would be purchasing shelving to use in your storage unit.
Once you place your books in a storage unit, Ramirez and Page say your job doesn’t just end there. Both recommended visiting your unit frequently to make sure the boxes and books haven’t suffered any significant damage. Ramirez also suggests taking about one trip a year to wipe off any dust buildup on the boxes.