The home of a reader is often filled with books, lying on a table, a bedside nightstand or maybe a rocker in a children’s room.
They often reveal favorite reading spots: a couch, window seat or porch.
But whether a classic novel, new autobiography or a timeless children’s story, all books deserve attention and care. That includes a reader’s personal collection.
Let’s start with dust.
“It’s important to keep books dusted. If you take a vacuum to them once a month, it keeps the dust off.,’’ said Kathy McClure, director, Eva K. Bowlby Public Library in Waynesburg, who explained dust and dust mites can deteriorate pages.
“We clean books at the library when they are returned,’’ said McClure. “We use a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle with a cloth.’’
Christy Fusco, director, Uniontown Public Library, recommended a non-wax polish, such as Endust, when dusting shelves and books or a dry duster, like Swiffer, to avoid discoloring pages.
When displaying books on a shelf, keep them away from direct sunlight and upright with the spine facing outwards. Bookends can also offer support.
McClure has seen people place books on a shelf with the spine facing the ceiling and the pages facing the bottom.
“When you do that, the weight of all the pages pulls the binding apart,’’ McClure said.
Fusco said valuable books, such as a first edition, should be stored behind glass.
But a book of great value that might be damaged or losing pages — including sentimental value, such as a family Bible – should be placed in an acid-free, protective book box, Fusco said.
“It will protect the book and keep it free from dust,’’ explained Fusco, who said boxes can be found on the internet or patrons can ask a librarian if uncertain what to buy.
Be careful when storing books.
“Very hot attics are not good for books. They cause the pages to become brittle,’’ said McClure. “Keep books in a cool, dry place and they will last a long time.’’
Fusco said basements, which can be damp, are also not good for books, commenting, “Under your bed is better because you want to keep them at a constant temperature and humidity.’’
Take care when handling books.
Don’t pull them off the shelf by the top of the spine.
Fusco said, “Pull from the middle of the spine — push the other books back. It’s harder with paperbacks. You have to be much more careful.’’
When opening a book, Fusco advised not to push down — especially a paperback — because that will weaken the book and cause the pages to fall out.
Never eat with a book, said Fusco.
“We used to say don’t feed your book,’’ Fusco remarked. “If you get orange juice on the pages, there’s sugar in there. You’re creating an environment for mold and insects.’’
Be careful where you read.
“You don’t want books to get wet,’’ said McClure. “A lot of people read in the bathtub or take a book to the porch and leave it there, and it gets rained on.’’
Fusco noted, “If you read in a hot bath, the steam is going into your book, and it will swell. It will become bigger than when you bought it. If you read in the bathtub every night, you will change the quality of the book.’’
Don’t dog ear pages to mark a spot.
“A lot of people like to pull down pages but they are not meant to be folded,’’ said McClure. “When you do that, it causes the pages to weaken and tear. Use a bookmark.’’
Sticky notes made for temporary attachments can be used, but McClure said they can damage a book if there a long time.
So use basic, common sense when handling and storing books.
Packed with knowledge, insights and adventure, books are an important part of life. With care, they will last a long time.