I visited a new bookstore this weekend. It was somewhat smaller than expected – 5 shelves and assorted tables, mostly hardbacks. The owner spoke of having readings which got rave reviews in the local paper, so maybe it’s a new business model I’m not familiar with. I was looking for paperbacks, preferably romance and mystery. I love them, I crave them, I’m struggling to shelf them!
When I moved, I had to get rid of my hardbacks. It was a wrench, but they were heavy, mostly textbooks now available on the internet. You pay by the pound when you move. It’s the same reason I left my bookcases behind. Beautiful pine 4’ x 8’ that I couldn’t budge even to dust.
Dusting is key to maintaining books. Dust isn’t the worst thing that can happen to books, but a regular, light swipe with a Swiffer helps keep them free from abrasion and insects and lets you check for damp. Some argue against a duster, but I find they capture dust instead of spreading it around and then neatly remove it to the garbage when tossed.
Humidity will kill a book almost as fast as direct sunlight. Dusting gives you a chance to check for mold and move books around so air can circulate around them. In the Southeast, humidity is legendary, so this weekend, I’m lining my shelves with butcher paper. Archival paper is hugely expensive, but some kraft papers are acid-free enough to at least keep books from sticking to painted shelves and the dust down.
The only way to truly manage humidity is to run the air-conditioning when it’s sticky. Sometimes it’s not even hot. But what will help the AC do its job is fresh filters. Even the higher number filtration filters need to be replaced monthly to keep the system clean.
Florida’s bright light did a number on my books even through window film, but I lucked out in Texas. I have built-in bookcases in the stairwell. I quickly filled them up and noticed another challenge of shelving books. The shelves sag.
I’ll have to reinforce or replace those shelves at some point, but the solution for the moment, for the particularly heavy or overflow, is metal shelves, especially folding metal shelves. They’re light, I can move or carry them, and they can support as much weight as wood.
A lot of trouble to go through for paperbacks? Maybe. Maybe my new friend at the bookstore is right to approach books more like singular treasures in a ‘white space’ gallery. But me, I still have a soft spot for the crowded little shop and overflowing bookshelves any day!