by Margot Rosenberg, Dog Lovers Bookshop
Co-author, The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New: A Simple Repair Manual for Book Lovers
Caring for books always reminds me of dogs. Loving dogs is never enough; you'll defeat the purpose of that cozy new bed if it's placed somewhere damp or drafty. Books also need more than love. How you take care of them -- what you collect or sell and how you display your collection -- says as much about your passion for books as the books themselves. Whether you're a longtime collector or a neophyte, you need a few good habits, neither time-consuming nor costly, to protect and preserve your bound best friends.
Dust it Off
A routine dusting is so obvious a need that it's commonly overlooked. A soft, lint-free cloth is your first choice. An old sock, worn like a hand puppet, easily removes loose dirt from book edges. Try untreated electrostatic dustcloths, too. The Artgum Eraser, Absorene Dirt Eraser, Document Cleaning Pad, and Clean Cover Gel are among the basic cleaning classics -- inexpensive, easy to use, and handy for other household and bookshop tasks.
Cover it Up
Clear plastic dust jacket covers guard against fingerprints, tears, and general wear. Brodart's wide selection of covers includes "lo-luster" finishes that mask minor imperfections and are perfect for the style and design of older volumes.
Know your environment. If your home or workplace suffers from damp, insects,
mold or mildew, remember that these are prime enemies of books. Sunlight,
too, is a great bleeder of book beauty. If you go nowhere without sunscreen,
provide book equivalents: shades or curtains that limit ultraviolet rays
and clear covers (think of them as sunglasses for books) for decorated spines
or colorful dust jackets that are prone to fading.
Books attractively arranged add to the charm of your surroundings, and often constitute a major statement in home or office decor. But they need more than sturdy, level shelving to remain attractive. Book protection can be part of your overall decorative scheme. Is a striking display of books in your den struck daily by several hours of direct sunlight? Ultraviolet rays can cause irreversible damage. So try an afghan color-coordinated with your upholstery or a length of fabric that matches your curtains draped over shelves when they're exposed to too much natural light. Do it with panache, make it a conversation piece, and you've raised the banner of book protection.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
The home environment poses additional potential hazards. By all means relax with a book in front of the fireplace. But remember the pernicious effects of smoke and soot, and that books absorb and are harmed by both. The danger of fire can be mitigated by never shelving books near a fireplace or stove. When you cook, or just order in and reheat, airflow patterns can carry smells from the kitchen. But those wonderful aromas grow stale when they migrate to books, and the greasy film some recipes produce also settles on books (another reason for plastic dust jacket covers, which are so easily cleaned).
Start a Trend
Dealers: ask your customers if they know how to maintain a book in the condition in which they’ve bought it; are they interested in book care, and can you help? Collectors: ask dealers and your peers for advice. Everyone who loves books: introduce the subject to your book club or while lounging over coffee at your local bookstore, mention it at your next dinner party or PTA meeting (could the school library benefit from your book-care skills?). That last suggestion is, of course, a wonderful way to start the next generation of bibliophiles on what, with any luck at all, will become the book-care craze.