Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hey, Rare Book Guy! What’s The Perfect Way To Store Books?

The Rare Books Guy’s mailbox held an emergency supply of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and not much else this week; nothing to satisfy the Rare Book Guy’s insatiable hunger for challenging questions.

But the Rare Book Guy is always on the lookout for red book-meat to chew on and then present to readers in predigested form. He works the salt-mines to dig up info of interest to you, the fellowship of the rarebookeratti. Today’s question is a common one but in yesterday’s news brought to you today, a unique, optimal - if somewhat radical - method to store and protect books has caught the Rare Book Guy’s attention.

The Rare Book Guy working a salt mine.

I’d been in the salt mines so long I didn’t recognize that the answer to today’s question had been right in front of me - and above, below, and on all sides.
Manchester Central Library.
While undergoing renovations, the Manchester Central Library is storing its books - 1.5 million of them, the equivalent of twenty-two miles of shelves - in an underground storage facility named DeepStore, maintained by the town of Winsford. It’s a rock salt mine, the U.K.'s largest.

 Miner in one of DeepStore's tunnels.

Approximately 44,000 volumes published before 1850 and more than 30 works dating back to the 15th Century will be among the books deep-salined 493 feet underground for an estimated three years while the library is being worked on.

DeepStore possesses optimal conditions for storing books: Consistent temperature (57ºF), humidity (65%), protection from ultra-violet light, vermin and floods. Book worms are helpless. And bookworms may find accessing their collection a bit inconvenient.

Inside DeepStore's salt mine storage facility.

Neil MacInnes, head of library services, said "With so many rare and precious books of significant historical importance being temporarily removed from Central Library, it is vital that they are stored securely and in the best conditions....The salt mines are an absolutely invaluable resource for this. The team at DeepStore are extremely experienced and we have the peace of mind that the collection will be kept safely until they can be returned to the library."

"I like my books well-seasoned."

There are other advantages left unspoken: According to celebrity chef and cookbook author Emeril Lagasse, a little salt brings out the zest in prose, BAM! And after three years of preservation in salt the volumes should make for tasty book-jerky, an excellent way to carry otherwise weighty tomes while on a long trek and handy when quick intellectual sustenance is required to get you over the next hill.

After the Library’s renovations are complete patrons on a low-sodium diet may wish to consult their physicians before checking books out.

Should anyone doubt the Rare Book Guy's veracity, the story is such a big chunk of rock crystal that Self-Storage News has covered it as The Ultimate Climate-Controlled Storage: Salt Mines. If you can't trust Self-Storage News, who can you trust?

Original, full story at Yorkshire Evening Post.

Have a question for the Rare Book Guy? He's here to help but first you must read the details.


  1. Wouldn't that humidity be too high? I mean, out where I used to work in El Paso, 68% humidity was the highest it would ever get -- outside, in the mornings. Should we have been running humidifiers full-time in the archives? Seems a bit bizarre... (We did have one for the leather/vellum books, because 6% humidity (the lowest I recall it getting outside) is a bit low for that!)

  2. Sounds like a great place to store just about anything, if you have the budget. For those with budgets under a million a year, I have posted some of my book storage suggestions here



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