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Caring for Your Personal Library

General Information


As you build your personal library, make sure you are taking the best care of it you possibly can! The Greenfield Library staff can't fix your books for you, but luckily, there are things you can do to keep your books in excellent condition. The information below will get you started with preserving and repairing your collection on your own.  

Care While Reading

  • Use bookmarks to mark your place, preferably paper or cardstock. Metal and wood bookmarks are more likely to tear the pages. 
  • Don’t store an open book face down.
  • Stop using sticky notes! The adhesive leaves a residue that can damage the page or make it stick to nearby pages.  
  • Don’t fold or dog-ear the pages.
  • Keep food and beverages away while reading.
  • Use pencil rather than pen or highlighter to annotate your books (NEVER annotate the library’s books!).
  • When possible, use a book-edge copier or scanner to copy pages from your book. If that isn’t available to you, place the book gently, face-down on the copier, and don’t press on the copier lid.
  • Use props to support the covers of very heavy or fragile books.

Storing Your Books

  • Store most books fully upright on your bookshelves. Use bookends to keep them standing straight.
  • Oversize books that don’t fit on your shelves upright should be stored flat.
  • Avoid painted shelves for long-term storage—the chemicals from the paint can damage the books.
  • Try to put hardbacks directly next to bookends. Bookends may damage paperbacks or small pamphlets.
  • Do not pull books off the shelves by the top of the spine. Instead, pull from behind or push in the books on either side. 
  • You may want to store pamphlets with soft covers in boxes so they don’t get smashed between heavier hardbacks.
  • Store your books in an area of your living space that is neither hot nor damp. Avoid poorly insulated areas where there may be temperature fluctuations throughout the day.
  • Regularly dust your books with a dry cloth, or use a lighter suction setting on your vacuum.

Moving Your Books

  • Use boxes that completely cover the books, not boxes with handle holes.
  • Pack books flat or spine-down, never on their fore-edges.
  • Pack paperbacks so they are supported and do not bend or slump.
  • Fill the box enough so that the books do not shift, but not so tightly that it is difficult to remove them.

Consulting a Conservator

Always consult a conservator before attempting to repair your book if it is valuable, either monetarily or to you or your family.

Water Damage

If your books get wet, many resources are available to help you learn how to salvage them.   

Book Repair Training

Classes are available in the Mid-Atlantic region for hands-on training in repairing your own books.

ArtFarm in Annapolis also offers bookmaking classes from time to time. 

DIY Resources

If your book is not valuable and you would like to try to repair it on your own, helpful resources are available online. Bad book repair advice is also plentiful online; please be careful!

Keep in mind that DIY repairs will require an investment in supplies and equipment, some of which can be quite expensive.  

Commercial Binderies

If your book isn't valuable enough to require conservation treatment and you aren't able to repair it yourself, several commercial binderies in Maryland offer rebinding and book repair services for a fee.