How do I preserve my books?

The most effective and economical preservation measures are preventive: proper storage, storage environment, and handling.

Take proper care when handling books by:

  • Having clean hands and a clean area to use the book
  • Keeping food and drink away
  • Removing the book from the shelf by gripping on both sides of the spine at the middle of the book (push in the neighboring book on both sides to get a good grip), instead of tugging at the top of the spine
  • Not forcing a book to lie open to 180 degrees; instead, prop up the covers of an opened book to decrease the opening angle
  • Not using paper clips, "dog ear" folding, or acidic inserts to bookmark pages
  • Not using rubber bands, self-adhesive tape, any kind of "leather dressing," and/or glue on books

Good storage significantly prolongs the life and usability of books and includes:

  • A cool (room temperature or below), relatively dry (about 35% relative humidity), clean, and stable environment (avoid attics, basements, and other locations with high risk of leaks and environmental extremes)
  • Minimal exposure to all kinds of light; no exposure to direct or intense light
  • Distance from radiators and vents
  • Regular dusting and housekeeping
  • Shelving books of similar size together, so that the face of the covers are maximally supported by the neighbors on each side
  • Keeping upright shelved books straight and not leaning (storing books lying flat is also good)

If conservation treatment is needed, see How do I find a conservator?


Last Updated: Mar 02, 2021
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Additional Ways to Contact Us

Send written correspondence to:

Preservation Directorate
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, D.C.  20540-4530

Please Note

We cannot provide: conservation (including review, examination, treatment), digitization/reformatting, access to/use of Library of Congress equipment, project funding, appraisals, recommendations for products or vendors, materials testing or analysis, preservation courses or classes, and/or responses to vendors seeking to sell or promote commercial products.