Pack and store books

This online resource will help you manage the conservation needs of books in your collection. Whether your books are used for research, as archive item or as treasured collection object, the State Library of Victoria has prepared this conservation guide with practical help in mind.

Tips on protecting stored books from damage

  • Books that feel damp or have a musty odour should be aired and dried in a well-ventilated room.
  • Surface dirt and dust should be removed with a soft brush, outdoors if possible, while wearing a disposable face mask.
  • Mouldy books should be treated by a conservator, as mould can cause serious damage to books and there are health risks associated with inhaling mould spores.
  • Insects can do considerable damage to paper-based material in storage, and books should be carefully checked for evidence of infestation.
  • Unhatched insect eggs resemble black poppy seeds and are often hidden in the gutters between the pages.
  • Remove these with a soft brush and discard them before packing the books.
  • Leather-bound books packed side-by-side can stick together if subjected to moisture.
  • As a precaution, they should be wrapped in a good-quality archival or 100 per cent rag paper.
  • Leather bindings that are degraded and powdery will stain other items and should also be wrapped in archival paper.

Storing books

  • Boxes should be strong, clean, dry and able to be closed.
  • Ordinary cardboard cartons are suitable.
  • Do not use boxes previously used to hold food, as food residue and odours will attract pests.
  • Small or medium-sized books can be packed either lying flat or standing upright.
  • Large heavy books should be stored lying flat.
  • Never store books resting on the spine or the fore-edge (the front edge opposite the spine), as this can seriously damage bindings.
  • Books stored upright should be packed securely enough to prevent them leaning at an angle but not crammed together in a way that subjects them to excessive pressure and makes unpacking difficult.
  • Books stored upright should not have items stacked on top of them.
  • Where heavy books are packed flat, one on top of the other, they should be arranged with spines and fore-edges alternating.
  • Pack larger, heavier books at the bottom of the box, with smaller, lighter ones on top.
  • Do not over-pack so that books are crushed.
  • Allow space for air to circulate.
  • Do not over stacked boxes making them heavy or unwieldy to move. This can be an occupational health and safety risk.


Open the Conservation Guide

View other State Library of Victoria Conservation Guides