Preserving Archival Records
Guidelines for Shelving Bound Volumes

By Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler
Supervisory Conservator
Document Conservation Branch
Preservation Policy and Services Division

These guidelines should be followed when shelving bound volumes in all National Archives facilities. The needs of bound records are the same, despite differences in shelving equipment.

I.  Vertical Orientation

    A.  Volumes should be shelved vertically if:

        1.  the height is 22" or less;

        2.  the thickness is 4" or less or, if greater than 4",
            standing upright does not cause the volume to slump or
            the textblock to fall away from the boards

        3.  the condition is sound and the volume is capable of
            standing with the support of adjacent volumes and/or

    B.  Volumes shelved vertically should be oriented with the tail
        or bottom edges resting on the shelf.  Volumes should not
        rest on either their spines or fore-edges.

    C.  Volumes must not be placed horizontally on top of a group of
        vertically shelved volumes.

    D.  Volumes of similar height that can help to support one
        another should be shelved vertically as a unit.
        Interspersing short and tall volumes in a vertical unit must
        be avoided, since the taller volumes need the support of
        their neighbors to avoid warping.

        1.  To avoid interspersing short and tall volumes, small
            volumes should be placed in standard archives boxes if
            possible.  This will also help to avoid the problem of
            small volumes being pushed to the backs of the shelves.

        2.  Another approach is to physically separate groups of
            short and tall volumes on the shelf, using multiple
            bookends to separate and support the groups.

    E.  All shelves containing volumes shelved vertically should be
        equipped with bookends that hang from the shelf above.

        1.  Bookends should be positioned at the end of a group of
            volumes to hold them in a true vertical orientation.

        2.  Sufficient free space should be left at the end of each
            shelf to permit access to the bookend so that it can be
            adjusted when volumes are removed from the shelf and
            when they are reshelved.

II.  Horizontal Orientation

    A.  Volumes should be shelved horizontally if:

        1.  the height exceeds 22", and/or

        2.  the thickness exceeds 4", and/or

        3.  the volume is in poor condition or noticeably distorted
            (examples:  boards detached or loose, textblock sagging,

        4.  the volume is a scrapbook, album, or similar composite
            structure with mounted elements that can be damaged or
            lost if they sift to the bottom of the volume during
            vertical storage.

    B.  Volumes shelved horizontally should not be placed in stacks
        higher than 6" or more than three volumes high.  Thus the
        thickness of the volumes with determine if one, two, or
        three volumes may be placed in a stack.

    C.  Large volumes should never be stacked on smaller volumes.
        Only volumes of similar size should be stacked on top of one
        another so that volumes are fully supported and prevented
        from warping.

    D.  Volumes should not extend beyond the edges of shelves.

Plain text version obtained 8 Jan 1996 from:
gopher:// and marked up by Walter Henry

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Timestamp: Thursday, 04-Nov-2010 14:30:48 PDT
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