Many of us have been spending a lot more time with our book collections than usual—just another side effect of staying at home all the time. But if you’ve been idly wondering whether your books have been getting the TLC they deserve, you’re in luck. Recently, the folks at Martha Stewart asked Sarah Melching, the Silber director of conservation at the Denver Art Museum, how best to care for valuable (or merely beloved) books.
Some of the tips Melching gives are fairly obvious: don’t leave your books in direct sunlight or musty basements, digitize important books that are falling apart, etc. Some are somewhat impractical (at least for the average book collector): wear gloves when you read, don’t live in a city with bad air quality, etc.
But one rule is worth repeating for everyone, because everyone violates it: don’t pull books off the shelf by the spine.
If the spine is in good condition, most books can—and should—be stored upright, says Melching. When it comes time to grab the book you want off the shelf, most people go about it all wrong, she explains. Tugging books by the upper lip of their binding can compromise and ultimately damage the spine over time. Instead, push in the books on either side of the volume you want. Then, grasp the desired tome by either side of its spine, gently pulling towards you.
See all of Melching’s advice for keeping your collection in tip-top shape here.