How to Store Books Properly: 10 tips and tricks

How to Store Books - Neighbor Blog

How to Store Books Properly: 10 tips and tricks

Books are one of the most sentimental items we keep around our homes. Think of what they represent: A good story, knowledge, a symbol of our intellect and personality. But when the books start piling up the question becomes, how to store books?

The emotions we have about our books are the heart of the issue behind knowing how to store books. We don’t want to get rid of books. While our love of books is unlimited, our space is. Most people can’t have the libraries featured on Star Wars, National Treasure (a.k.a. The Library of Congress), and Beauty and the Beast. It’s just not feasible.

But that’s ok. We are here to help you find a way to have your cake and eat it too. We want to help you think of creative, yet tasteful, ways to store books properly and elegantly. We’ll cover a few ways to store books around your home, and then some maintenance tips for your books both to keep them fresh or ready for long term storage.

Old Books in Storage

7 Places to Store Books in Your House

Storing books in your house doesn’t have to be contained to a simple bookcase. Remember what Marie Kondo says: you should make your home and possessions spark joy.
closet book case

Vertical Space

Don’t be afraid to stack your books in a very tall, skinny shelf. These can make your room look taller, and draws attention to your books without taking much space.

Under Benches

If you have bench seats around your house, these can be a great place to store books. It creates a look like you’re books are prolific around your home while still staying neat.

Transform Closets

Small closets around your home can easily turn into book cases. You may consider replacing the door with a glass windowed door so that the books are visible.

Thin Shelves

Thin shelves where you place books face out can turn a hallway into a gallery. It’s a clever way to display your favorite books and covers in full force.
floating bookshelf

On a Staircase

Put books in the spaces between the posts on a staircase. Like other suggestions in this list, storing your books this way gives the appearance that you have books all over your home, while still looking clean and neat.

On Top of Cupboards

If your cupboards don’t stretch to the ceiling the tops of can be an excellent place to store books. Plus it makes your kitchen look equally in line with your love of books.

On Mini Shelves

A new trend is to up little shelves on different walls that hold 5-10 books or maybe fewer with bookends.

Tip #1: Climate Control is Key when Storing Books

Let’s remember that paper degrades.  It is organic, and it will disappear over time because of pests, bacteria, mold, fungi and anything that might snack on the paper. It’s not quick, thank goodness, but over time, it will take its toll. Here are some things to remember when storing your books:

  • Low temperatures are ok. Lower temperatures prevent living things from living comfortably, so it can actually be good to store your books in a cold space. It is recommended to keep the temperature below 75 degrees when you store books.
  • Humidity is BAD! Fungus and mold thrive in highly humid spaces. That’s why bathrooms can often be the most disgusting room in the house.
  • Low relative humidity can also be bad. If it gets too dry, then your pages can become brittle. Brittle pages break. We don’t want broken pages.
  • Light can be bad.  UV radiation can cause paper to yellow and ink to fade. Keep your books out of direct sunlight. Books are meant to be read, not sunburned.

Take very good care of your books. You never know when one might become valuable because of discontinued publishing or a limited supply. If nothing else, preserving them for the future generation should be a worthy enough cause in itself.

Tip #2: Proper Shelving

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”

– Ernest HemingwayStoring books in your garage

Because books are so loyal, why should we be any less loyal to them?  That is, of course, a very cheesy way of saying that to store books requires attention and care. You could pile them up in your garage. They won’t last very long, but you can go ahead and do it.

If you wish to preserve your books, get some shelves. Boxes might seem more economical; however, that increases the chances that the books become damaged.

When thinking about storing books in your garage, you’ll have to consider all the angles. I mean that literally. You need to make sure that the books don’t fall. When anything falls, it can be damaged. Then, there’s the question of who will pick up the book. Don’t let them fall. Find the right type of shelving that will keep the books nestled together like a happy little family.

Tip #3: Keep Pests Away

We’ve already mentioned that a lower temperature can discourage insects and the right humidity can discourage mold and fungus, but what about rats? Yup, rats could pose a serious threat to your many-paged friends. Nothing is worse than having to read a book that has been nibbled on one corner. Believe me, I have a cat that chews on anything paper, if we let him.

In garages, there’s a clever way of discouraging mice from getting at your books. It’s cotton balls soaked in mint. Simply position the cotton at places where mice are likely to venture (please don’t put them on the books), and the scent should chase away our Mickey Mouse wannabes. You could also try a cat (unless you get one like mine that likes chewing on books).

Storing books in a garage is not impossible. Just make sure you do it right.

Lot's of open books

Tip #4: Keep Food Away

Do you remember the movie A Bug’s Life? In it, there’s a character named Heimlich. He’s a caterpillar who never stops eating. That is an excellent comparison to a bookworm.

Bookworms aren’t worms, although they eat just as much as one. They are detrimental to books and can even wreak havoc on bookshelves. They are attracted by food, so keep food away from your books.

This is good advice anyway because paper is absorbent and can collect all sorts of crumbs, smudges and sticky stuff. If you want to store books, then keep food away so you can keep your books. It’s that simple.

This really shouldn’t even be an issue. In libraries, food is rarely allowed near books. When storing books, it helps to think of yourself as a library (The Pagemaster for example). You need to safeguard your books. I know you won’t be accessing the books as often as the people at a library; however, your goal isn’t accessibility alone. You also want durability and preservation. The accessibility has to last for a really long time. That can only happen if you store books well.

Tip #5: Sprinkle Pepper

This is an interesting tip. You can sprinkle pepper or insect powder near your books. Let me be clear, though. DO NOT SPRINKLE ANYTHING ON THE BOOKS. Just like the cotton balls, you put it near the books, and the smell deters the pests from munching on your old books. Bookworms don’t pose a real threat to modern books, but to antiques they can be devastating.  I’d also caution not to inhale any of the pepper because it is very uncomfortable. Just saying.

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Some people also suggest to use camphor in a similar way. Put some of the strong-smelling stuff around your shelves, and the bookworms should be kept at bay. The aroma will annoy them to the point of driving them away. It’s us against the worms, so either they go, or we do. My vote is that they go.

Tip #6: Mind the Seasons

Attics are interesting parts of the home. In many houses, the attic is un-insulated. Sometimes, the attic is unfinished. The key, then, is to remember the seasons and take countermeasures accordingly.

In the summer, the attic can become the hottest part of the house because heat rises. In the winter, the attic might become the coldest part of the house because it is generally left unheated to save electricity or gas.

During summertime, remember to add airflow and do something to lower the heat. If you have to, move the books. Maybe that’s not an option? Try putting an air conditioning unit in the attic. Sometimes storing books in the attic just isn’t feasible because it is so exposed to the elements.

Let’s not forget about humidity. If there is a leak in your attic, sometimes you won’t know it unless it rains and you are up in the attic. Make sure you’ve protected your books beforehand. You don’t want to find out your attic leaks by opening a book and smelling the damp, musty smell of mold. That is no fun at all.

Clever Book Storage Hacks

Tip #7 Use the Correct Containers

Sometimes shelves are not an option. They are the best option, but sometimes you just can’t do it. That means you’ll have to find the right way to store books, in other words, the right containers.

In choosing the right container, you need to think of the previous tips. Let’s compare and contrast some of the most popular options.

Cardboard: The classic cardboard box can serve the purpose perfectly. Make sure to get a box that has not been used to store food. The food will have left some residue or aroma that will attract bugs and pests. You will also want to keep the area in the right levels of humidity. On shelves, books have more airflow and less chance for mold to grow. In boxes, the chances of mold and fungus go up.

Plastic: Plastic boxes are obviously more expensive. They come in all the shapes and sizes that you could possibly need; however, they can break and cause a mess, if not taken care of. Again, remember to make sure no food has inhabited the box and that the temperature and humidity are at the right levels. Sunlight can affect plastic boxes more than cardboard because the plastic can act like a lens. It can intensify the effects if not managed correctly.

That is all to tell you to choose your containers carefully.

Tip #8: Keep the Jackets On

Row of bookshelves

Personally, I always thought that the book covers were simple decorations made to make the book look more impressive. I thought that, maybe, a hard backed book needed some way for people to judge it by its cover. Well, these book jackets actually have a purpose other than to annoy people.

Book jackets take the brunt of all the damage inflicted on books. They protect from scratches, scuffing, burning (although they don’t offer much protection here) and even the occasional glob of gooey donut filling (don’t judge) that falls on the book. They are the book’s first line of defense. They also help the book remain classy.

To some people this might not make much of a difference, but when selling books, you have more options when the book jacket is still intact. So here’s to the book jacket, the most under-appreciated part of the book (here, here!)

Tip #9: Dusting

Even though the previous tip listed the book jacket as the dust jacket, it doesn’t really protect against dust. Although dust jackets don’t actually keep dust away. And it turns, out dusting is a really good tip in storing your books. Anticlimactic I know, but dusting helps to keep books in really good shape.

Some dusting is better than no dusting, so if you don’t have time at least dust a little in whatever way you can. If you are more committed, the best way to dust is starting from the spine and moving out towards the edge of the pages. This is to prevent any dust from falling in the cracks between pages. Dust is so small that even a vacuum can’t get it all out. That reminds me, when you do dust, if you choose to use a vacuum, use the brush attachment so you don’t accidentally suck up any loose pages.

Tip #10: Correct Placement

Remember all of the previous steps, but most importantly, pay attention to how you put the book in the space. The best way to place books is standing up with their spines visible. You might recognize this method as the same method found in libraries. Why not try it yourself? Make sure none of the pages are folded. Each page is important to the book as a whole.

If you can’t stand the books up, make sure you stack them correctly. You’ll always want to start with the largest books on the bottom. Here, I mean the largest profile. Then, stack the books like a pyramid. This is so the books don’t topple and fall. While stacking books in boxes, you’ll want to stack like-sized books together, in order to conserve space.  

Using these tips in concert will ensure that your books remain for generations.


“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”

–Vera Nazarian

I would be remiss if I didn’t end an article on how to store books properly without a quote about the wonder of books. I really am a huge book nerd (even though I don’t really look like it). Books deserve a good home, and that means good storage.

Remember: 1) Climate control is key, 2) Proper Shelving, 3) Keep pests away, 4) Keep food away, 5) Sprinkle pepper, 6) Mind the seasons, 7) Use the correct containers, 8) Keep the jackets on, 9) Dust, 10) Use correct placement. With these key tips you will have no problem keeping your books in tip-top shape!

If you have any suggestions for other book users, comment below. We’d love to hear them.

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