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Library Cleaning

Book Care and Repair

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Sep 18, 2006, 5:45am Top

I'm in the midst of my annual library cleaning and have wondered how others go about this task, if they do. I've removed all the books from the shelves and dusted them individually with a soft, disposable duster, and cleaned the shelving. I've seen some recommendations on vacuuming books, but haven't done it for the amount of time it would take. Does anyone have suggestions or personal preferences on how they keep their books clean?

Or should I just save up for a wall of barristers cabinets? ;)

Sep 20, 2006, 8:07am Top

I just hope to regular handling to keep my books dust free. I do use blue-tac or a v. soft rubber to clean the covers of books which have got grimy through handling. Not come across the vacuming idea - have a nasty feeling it might be the last straw for some of my more brittle acquisitions.

Sep 20, 2006, 8:56am Top

Actually, CAREFUL vacuuming with the dusting brush is supposed to be gentler than dusting with a cloth and should remove more loose dirt. But I would handle any fragile book very carefully and as little as possible. The oil from one's skin is damaging to fragile and brittle papers. Vacuuming books one by one takes about the same time as using a soft cloth but occasionally I do the spines and shelf edges,etc. to help slow down the dust buildup. This past year I've been completely emptying shelves and doing a thorough job of cleaning as I catalog the books. One of the reasons it's taking so long! Usually there are several years between cleanings because its such a big project.

Dec 14, 2006, 9:18pm Top

Vacuuming is better that rubbing with a cloth; it lifts the dust. Even if you just vacummed along the top and front of them without removing them from the shelf, it would be worth the effort I think. (I'm learning in library school how corrosive dust is. Kind of scary.)

And wearing gloves will protect the books from skin oils. (I use white cotton ones that I got through the Vermont Country Store catalog.)

Of course, I'm anal...

5bcobb First Message
Edited: Mar 4, 2007, 2:12am Top

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Jan 4, 2007, 11:59am Top

I use a small shop vac, and a put a clean sock over the top of the hose. It works like a charm.

Jan 13, 2007, 3:13am Top

We splurged on a new vacuum cleaner (never loses suction, for the price of your firstborn) for the holidays - the first thing I noticed was how well the attachments would work for book cleaning.

Thanks everyone!

Mar 9, 2007, 7:38pm Top

It may sound like heresy, but I've used a standard "Swiffer" duster for a quick, regular dusting of the tops of the books and the front of the shelves. They are soft and light and, as near as I can determine, contain no chemicals to worry about. I do about 1 bookshelf, toss the duster and attach a new one to the handle and move to the next case.


9bibliophile99 First Message
Oct 24, 2007, 9:10pm Top

Okay, I'm new at the whole cleaning and preservation thing (I'm still earning my master's degree).

I currently work in a tiny library that has an even tinier budget. The stacks have not been cleaned in over 20 years, and they really need to be done.

I was wondering if there's a company one could contract to do this work. I would have my undergrad assistants do it, but there are various health issues at play that prevent them from doing this job.

Can anyone recommend a reputable company that can get the job done for a reasonable price?

Oct 24, 2007, 11:02pm Top

Outside of my area, but you might look at the Librarians Who LIbraryThing group and see if that topic has come up or start a thread there.


Oct 26, 2007, 3:58pm Top

Thanks very much, Osbaldistone. Have just posted in that forum. Hopefully, someone will know of a company.

Aug 14, 2009, 8:24am Top

I vacuum my books on a rotating basis; since they are in almost every room of the house, I do a room at a time. Dusting can grind dust into the books (especially wiping-with-a-cloth dusting); vacuuming with a brush attachment is better.

I take down a shelf at a time and wipe down the shelf, letting it dry and air thoroughly while I vacuum the edges of the books (holding two or three at a time, depending on size).

They never look any different when they're reshelved, but I feel very virtuous. All of the dirt seems to transfer to me.

Aug 14, 2009, 8:30am Top

I normally first remove the books from one shelf, then wipe the shelf with water, dry it and then one more time with alcohol to kill mold, spores, etc... After everything is dry I vacuum with a sock attached to the hose and place them back on the shelf. Then repeat with the other shelves. Luckily I have only a few books so it doesn't consume too much time

Aug 14, 2009, 9:09am Top

I think that Ohio has a program, possibly through the university's financial aide office, where students with demonstrated need can be hired for small jobs like that and the state picks up part of their pay. If your state / school has a similar program it could save your department some money.

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