Preparing to Move

This is the first installment in a series on moving.

So, fellow bibliophile! You’re going to be moving soon? You have my sympathies! Moving a library can be a nightmare. Preparation is vital.

Give Your Books a Once-Over

Do you have any particularly delicate books? Books in this category include:

  • Any paperback or hardcover with loose pages or other structural damage.
  • Antique books that seem a bit fragile
  • Odd-sized books (very small or very tall and thin)


Decide how concerned you are for these books’ well-being and either set them aside to be transported separately (possibly each wrapped in packing paper first) or make a mental note to pack with them in mind so they’ll be supported and braced by other books.

Find the Right Boxes

This is very important. It’s really, really easy to look at a box and think it’ll be fine when packed with books and then find yourself unable to move it without injury. Books are heavy.  Three trade paperbacks weigh about a pound. So does a single normal-size hardcover.

In my experience, the small cube-sized boxes offered by places like U-Haul are a bit small, while their small rectangular boxes are too big. The best boxes I’ve found so far are the ones from Better World Books I was able to get leftover from a book drive done in partnership with them. That’s what I used for my most recent move.

If you can’t get your hands on book drive boxes, you’re better erring on the side of too small than too big. If all you can find are big boxes, try hitting up a local library or bookstore for leftover boxes from their book shipments. Or, pack a layer of books at the bottom of your big boxes and then filling the rest of the space with something lightweight.

The C-Word

I am of course, talking about culling.

I read Unclutterer frequently, and most of the folks writing/commenting there are major proponents of getting rid of any book that isn’t reference or something you’re going to read and reread.You’ll find the same message on many other sites, and not just minimalist-oriented ones.

Unsurprisingly, I disagree.

Books are more than just the stories they hold. They are historical artifacts, memorabilia, and plenty more. If nobody ever held onto old books, there are a lot of researchers who would be majorly out of luck. Consider the museums that showcase children’s books, or the ancient books historians and bibliophiles pour over. Hell, I’m really irked that I will probably never get my hands on a complete copy of Varney the Vampire because it was a penny dreadful and those cheap pamphlets almost never survived culling (even Project Gutenberg doesn’t have a complete version). At the time, nobody thought Varney the Vampire was anything more than just another pulp horror story. Looking back, though, it was one of the first vampire novels in English, and that makes it significant.

I’ve frequently held onto books and reread them later because I learned something new about the author or otherwise had my views changed.

I’m a big believer that what we each do with our book collections is our own business, so if you choose to cull yours, I won’t give you a hard time about it — but if you’re considering culling mostly because of pressure from other people, don’t. Nobody can say what the right standards for collecting are for you but you.

All Set?

Once you’ve got your boxes and decided how to handle your delicate books, you’re ready to pack! Come back next week for my take on that.