Protect Your Books (and Your Marriage) with Proper Shelving Techniques – Guest Post

Our readers enjoyed the recent guest post on book collecting so much that I asked Benjamin Clark – the man behind The Exile Bibliophile blog – to share more of his wisdom.  Thanks to Benjamin’s guest post below, we all can learn how to protect our books by shelving them properly.  

I would also like to point out to my wife that Benjamin and his wife store their books separate, too. Sounds like good advice.

Happy Reading!

Bradley S. Wirz, Founder & CEO

Protect Your Books Through Proper Shelving Techniques

I’m the first to admit, I don’t care for all of my books equally.  But I own books that are precious to me, requiring better care.  Caring for your books begins with your eyes.  Look at them closely, carefully– especially books you’ve had for a long time.  Do boards on any of your hardcovers bow?  Does each book sit square?  Are the heads of the spines busted?  Have you gouged your gauffered edges?  These injuries are symptoms of inadequate storage.

When caring for your books, the basics begin with shelving.  No matter how much you love your books, you aren’t reading all of them at once, right?  Books spend most of their time on the shelf, so shelving them with an eye toward care can go a long way.

Don’t tell my wife, but her preference for shelving books upright by height with total disregard for subject matter or author is actually best for long-term book care.  I, on the other hand, prefer to shelve non-fiction books by chronological subject matter and fiction by author’s national origin and life chronology.

That’s also why we’ve been happily married for nearly a decade: We don’t mix our books.  Shelved by height, books support each other.  Huge books, often atlases or enormous art books, are best laid down and stacked pyramid style, biggest on bottom.  Over time, the slick, high quality paper in these books is so heavy it will damage the binding if left upright.

The Importance of Book Ends

Books like to be held snug, but not tight.  If you’ve ever busted the head of the spine of a dust-jacket or hardcover book removing it from a shelf, you know you’re packing them in too tight.  Packing them too tightly can also cause the boards of hardcover books to bow inward over a long period of time.

But there are also dangers with shelving books to loosely.  Boards will warp outward under the weight of the pages when left unsupported.  The spine will also splay loose at the top in early stages. This can also happen when taller books are shelved tightly amongst smaller brethren.  The solution: Use bookends to maintain snugness.

Like I said, I certainly don’t treat all of my books this well.  But the books I really love deserve my full attention.  I try for a happy medium, sometimes making choices for the best of the book, sometimes adhering to my impeccable scheme.  Occasionally a little compromise works best.  That’s the best bet to save your books, as well as your marriage.

For more on the subject of book collecting, the anatomy of books and proper shelving techniques, Benjamin recommends this helpful PDF: ABC For Book Collectors