A Bungalow of Books: Caring for Your Personal Library

We are deep into spring and many of us have already taken on the task of spring cleaning and reorganization… but is your job complete? Have you taken a moment to check on the health of your personal library and the care of those collections?

As librarians, archivists or curators of the stacks, whether in a Public, Academic or Special library, archive or museum, we take great strides to maintain the health of those collections. We handle the materials with care, shelf-read, shift materials and maintain a steady temperature to insure the health of the materials but are we doing the same at home?

Our own LYRASIS Preservation Services Librarian, Alix Bentrud, recently offered some reminders on how to maintain a healthy collection in your home.

Caring for Books

  1. A personal library should be on shelves that are not under windows where they can be exposed to rain or sun. Keeping them away from windows helps prevent fading and desiccation of the paper. Changes in temperature can affect the adhesives in the binding – this is also the reason you want to store your books away from radiators, heat vents and air conditioning.
  2. The height between shelves should be tall enough for the books to stand upright – slumping books can cause stress on the bindings and distortion of the text block. Book ends can be used to help keep books standing tall. Don’t pile more books on top of upright books. For volumes that are too tall for the bookshelf, store those flat.
  3.  If you have to store books in a box, the box should be able to close – this protects them from dust and light. The box should also be small enough to be easy to carry. Be sure not to overfill the boxes, keep off of floors away from pest, dust and possible seeping water. Try to store the boxes in places other than your basement or attic. Place books inside the box upright on a single row or packed flat. Don’t make the piles too high, as that will cause a lot of pressure on the books on the bottom of the pile.
  4. The hardest area for keeping books is the kitchen, but if you are a cook and have a grand collection of cookbooks and thus, want them to serve their purpose, to cook with! Ideally you want to keep them away from cooking activities. There are some reminders in keeping these books safe as well even while in use. Use the same storage advice from above – should keep books off the floor and away from heating and cooling vents and appliances. Store them away from the cook tops, food prep areas, or sources of water. A good place might be a cabinet away from the stove. Finally, try to handle books only with clean hands.

Caring for Digital Photos

Another important collection in our lives is our digital photos. The  Library of Congress has some great tips to follow to insure you don’t loose any of your digital photos whether they are stored online or on your device.

1. Identify where you have digital photos

  • Identify all your digital photos on cameras, computers and removable media such as memory cards.
  • Include your photos on the Web.

2. Decide which photos are most important

  • Pick the images you feel are especially important.
  • You can pick a few photos or many.
  • If there are multiple versions of an important photo, save the one with highest quality.

3. Organize the selected photos

  • Give individual photos descriptive file names.
  • Tag photos with names of people and descriptive subjects.
  • Create a directory/folder structure on your computer to put the images you picked.
  • Write a brief description of the directory structure and the photos.

4. Make copies and store them in different places

  • Make at least two copies of your selected photos—more copies are better.
  • One copy can stay on your computer or laptop; put other copies on separate media such as DVDs, CDs, portable hard drives, thumb drives or Internet storage.
  • Store copies in different locations that are as physically far apart as practical. If disaster strikes one location, your photographs in the other place should be safe.
  • Put a copy of the photo inventory with your important papers in a secure location.
  • Check your photos at least once a year to make sure you can read them.
  • Create new media copies every five years or when necessary to avoid data loss.

If you are interested in more information on handling your collections inside and outside the library, please check out our Collection Care and Handling resource page.

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