• Moving Your Books or Library, a Complete Guide

    art-3.1It occurred to us to reflect upon some of the peculiar challenges which face the true bibliophile, or book-lover, who – for whatever reason – is moving house. Our musings have a beginning, a middle and an end with a sprinkling of red herrings, a few sub-plots, at least one climax and a satisfying denouement.

    Story spoiler alert: those who do not want to know the ending should jump immediately to the next section. Look away now. In this article, some books die.

    Cultural Desecration

    204The Royal Library of Alexandria in Egypt was one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was famous for being a major centre of scholarship from when it was built in the third century BC until the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. Many of the most celebrated thinkers of the ancient world studied there and scribes were employed to borrow books from other libraries, copy them onto scrolls and return the books to their original owners.

    Infamously, the Royal Library was burned down with such an irreplaceable loss of scrolls and accumulated human knowledge that, even today, the fire stands as a symbol of the total destruction of cultural wisdom.

    A Moment Of Sensuous Pleasure

    207We know you love books too. There really is nothing quite like the smell and feel of a book, whether it be the cheap ink and cheaper paper of a cut-price thriller or the luxurious, glossy sheen of a high quality coffee table photographic extravaganza, books have a unique quality that simply does not translate into any other medium.

    Only the long-playing record even comes close in terms of the pure sensual pleasure we get from handling the object itself. No-one ever enthused about the pleasures of handling a cassette tape: hardly anyone even remembers them and your children will look at you with pitying condescension and an eye on their prospects of an early inheritance if you even mention that have ever played one.

    No-one ever held a CD or DVD up to the light or pressed it against their nose or rubbed it against their cheek or between finger and thumb for the sheer pleasure of doing so. No-one ever caressed an e-book or a digital music file.

    To the true bibliophile, consumers of modern, electronic media live in a grey, two-dimensional world – and we pity them.

    Moving Home – Some Bad News

    210You can already see the way this is going, can’t you? When you decided to move house, you weren’t really thinking about your beloved books and now you fear that horrible things are about to happen. There Is no easy way to say this: you are absolutely right.

    Do you know how many books you have? It is so easy to add books to your library without ever appreciating just how their numbers increase – and there is reliable, scientific evidence to suggest that books breed in the night when you are fast asleep.

    You need to do some planning now, well in advance of your impending move. For the true book-lover, this part of the move will take longer than almost any other single aspect. The reason is partly due to the sheer number of books which need to be considered and partly because, silly as it sounds, you will have to make some difficult and even emotional decisions about what to keep, what to pass on and what to destroy.

    “Houston, We Have A Problem”

    All joking aside, you probably do not realise just how large your book collection is. Ideally, you need to clear a room so that you can put all the books you own into it. When you have books in your living room, your study, the kitchen, the bathroom and all your bedrooms, it is easy not to appreciate just how many there really are or how much physical space they occupy.

    It would probably have been a good idea not to build a wall of books between you and the door …. Never mind. You will remember for next time.

    Once you have your books together, you can start to assess the size of the job. If you are moving to a smaller house, will you be able to take all your books with you? Probably not. Even if you are moving to a house of similar size or larger, do you actually want to take all of your books with you? Again, probably not.

    Can you afford to transport all of your books? The removal company will probably charge you according to some combination of weight and volume. Be honest with yourself: can you justify the cost of every book you own?

    Making Decisions

    212Assuming that you have decided you cannot afford or do not want to move your entire library to your new home, how should you go about culling your collection?

    We offer some possible approaches to the problem in the hope that they will help you through this painful time when, sadly, you must say ‘goodbye’ to some very old friends who have, quite literally, been part of the furniture for years.

    And that is your first clue. How often have you glanced at your book shelves in search of something to read and passed over the same unread books again and again? Face up to it: you have had years to read those books and have always found an excuse not to do so. Now is the time to bump them off. Put them in your discard pile and we will come back to them a little later.

    Do you have children? If so, have they grown too old for any of the books you still own? Have they moved away from home altogether to pursue their own lives? You know what is coming: unless a children’s book has particular sentimental value, if your children have outgrown it, it goes on the discard pile.

    We know what you’re like, by the way, especially you Mummies: it is not acceptable to claim that every book has particular sentimental value or you will never get through this exercise. Be strong with yourself!

    More Decisions

    114You should probably review your reference books and cookbooks next. Some of these decisions may be easy ones: the book is so out of date now that it can no longer justify its continued presence on your shelves.

    Other reference books may deal with subjects which you swore twenty years ago you were going to take up as a hobby. You know the sort of thing: Woodworking For Beginners or Tropical Aquaria For The Landed Gentry. If you haven’t even bought a handsaw and the nearest aquarium is in the local pet shop, then you know what you need to do. Be strong, soldier!

    These days, a lot of reference material can be found quickly and easily on the internet. It has the advantage, too, of being more up to date than most printed reference books. Unless the book itself has some value through its great age, perhaps now is the time to let go.

    Damaged Books

    116It really is not worth keeping damaged books unless they have some real, intrinsic value of their own. Damage presents itself in two main forms: books which are falling apart because they were cheaply made or because they have been used often and vigorously and books which are suffering from the effects of damp and mildew.

    Anything which is rotting should just be thrown away. Should you decide to take mildewed books with you, it is extremely likely that the rot will spread to your good books because they will have been packed together for so long.

    When it comes to simple physical damage, you do need to ask yourself why you are hanging on to the book so badly. Unless the book is out of print, you can always buy a replacement when you have settled in to your new home. The chances are, you simply won’t bother … and you sort of know that already.

    The Discard Pile

    213We would like to think that you have gone through your books carefully and decided which ones need to be disposed of. You have three main options.

    The first is to take everything down to the local dump. The second is to take everything down to the local charity shop. The third is to give everything to the local school.

    We would like to think that you would take some care over the disposal of what were once much loved friends. We assume that you will only dump what you cannot otherwise dispose of.

    So what should go to the local school? To be honest, you should only consider books which are current and relevant.  Have a word with the school librarian and let them choose from your discard pile. They know what children are reading and what sort of books will support what is being taught at the school.  The librarian will not thank you if you simply turn up with a large plastic bag and hand it over: all you have really done is pass the responsibility for disposal on to someone else.

    Similarly, charity shops welcome donations but what they really need is stock that will sell. Every day, charity shops up and down the country sell unsuitable clothing to rag merchants for pennies per kilo (a practice which is, unsurprisingly, known as “ragging” in the trade) and throw away thousands of books which they know they are never going to sell.

    As a responsible person, you should review your discard pile and only take down to the charity shop those books which you think they have a reasonable chance of selling. Everything else will only be thrown away as soon as you leave the shop.

    Consider The Packers!

    120Now that you have bid a tearful farewell to some old friends which you will never see again and have renewed your acquaintance with some friends you had completely forgotten about when you should have been working, you need to think about how you are going to move your reduced library.

    If your removal company is going to do the packing for you, they need to have some idea of the volume and the weight of the books to be moved.

    Books are very, very heavy and your removal men are not super-human. They can only safely carry so much weight at a time.

    If you are packing your books yourself, make sure that you can pick up each box on your own without undue strain. If you struggle, then your removal men will also struggle.

    As a very rough guide, if you want to move 300 books, you probably need anywhere between 40 and 70 packing boxes depending on how large and heavy your books are. You can buy packing supplies from online sources such as eBay but do make sure to check the sizes of what you are buying – it is very easy to purchase boxes which are too small for your purpose because you have mis-read the measurements or thought measurements had been given in inches rather than centimetres.

    Security Concerns

    If you are using cardboard packing boxes, you should use strong parcel tape to secure the bottom of each box. For especially heavy books, it is also a good idea to run the tape round all the sides to help hold the edges in. Run one line of tape round the bottom third of the box and another line around the top third for maximum strength.

    How To Pack Books

    121Hardback books can simply be stood upright much as if they were being placed on your bookshelf. Pack books closely together but allow a little freedom of movement between them so that they are not damaged in transit. Large gaps between books should be filled with old newspapers.

    If the books are valuable editions, it is worth placing them between two pieces of thick, stiff cardboard and then wrapping them in bubble wrap to protect them. Make sure that the box is well-padded even if that means that you pack fewer books than you otherwise would.

    Books can also be packed with their spines on the floor of the box and the open edge facing the top of the box. They should not be packed the other way around, however, as there is a danger that they will warp.

    Finally, of course, books can be packed flat. This works best when you have a large number of books of approximately the same size such as paperback novels. Ideally, larger books should cover the whole area of the packing box so that there is as little movement as possible during transit. Always fill any significant gaps with old newspapers or similar materials.

    Look And Sniff!

    Always check each book thoroughly to make sure that it is completely dry. A damp book will rot its stable mates faster than you can say “Dickensian decay”. You should also keep an eye – and a nose – out for fungal infection as that too will spread through your precious books like a rash and ruin them irreparably.

    Label & Order Your Boxes

    You should label each box in a manner that is meaningful to you. Give some indication of weight (“light”, “medium”, “heavy”) so that you have some idea of how the packing boxes should be loaded on to the removal lorry. If the boxes are being stacked, you want the heavier boxes at the bottom of the stack and the lighter ones at the top. The boxes should be secured by some means so ensure that your removals company is made aware early on of the rough number of packing boxes you have.

    Remember: if you can’t lift a packing box full of books comfortably, it is unreasonable to expect your removal men to do so. Do not endanger their health and livelihoods for the sake of an extra packing box!

    A Word About Bookcases

    122Bookcases can be incredibly heavy, unwieldy objects which cause otherwise well-mannered and perfectly pleasant men to swear in quite shocking ways using naughty words which we will not repeat here.

    As always, the key to a successful move is sharing information with your removals company earlier rather than later. If you have heavy bookcases, give your removal company as estimate of the measurements so that they can bring appropriate equipment with them. This might be some form of trolley of rollers that they can place underneath the bookcase. It might be pulleys and ropes so that they can control it properly as they move it on to the lorry.

    If the bookcase has drawers, removable shelves or any other detachable parts, you should remove them beforehand so that they do not pose a danger to you, your family or the removal men themselves. If it is not possible to remove drawers and shelves, then you should ensure that they are properly secured with rope so that they do not suddenly move or fall out and create a dangerous situation.

    Once the bookcase is in the removal van, it should be properly secured with ropes or harnesses. Provided that you have kept your removal company properly informed, however, this should not be your concern.

    When You Get There

    We are not going to tell you how to organise your books once you get to your new house. That is, of course, entirely up to you. We did think, though, that you might be interested in a little tip: once your bookcases have been put in position, leave them for a day or two to allow the wood to acclimatise to the temperature and humidity of their new home, especially if they have been stored in the removal lorry or in a shipping container for any length of time.

    This will reduce the risk of any of your books absorbing residual dampness from the bookcase and being spoiled. Strange but true.

    Finally …

    Well this has been quite a tear-jerker, hasn’t it? Some books had to be re-homed and others died in horrible ways. They were all very brave about it and you must be too. The good news, though, is that most of them survived in one piece … and what exciting tales of adventure they have to tell!

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