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Environmental control is the most important factor in preservation. Store your valuable books in archival containers to stabilize them, and keep the containers in a place where there is good air circulation and the temperature and humidity remain stable. Avoid attics or basements unless you have extraordinary climate control installed.
High temperature and high humidity enable the acidic reactions which contribute to paper deterioration. Storing books at lower temperatures can significantly extend their lifespan; one authority states that the lifespan of paper materials is almost doubled at each 10-degree (F) reduction in temperature. A constant storage temperature of 68 degrees (F) is considered ideal, but the constancy is as important as the temperature. Wide fluctuations in temperature can be extremely damaging.
Humidity also must be controlled; humidity below 40% can cause paper to become dry and brittle, whereas more than 60% humidity can soften paper and increase acidic decay. 50% humidity is deemed acceptable by preservationists; again, it is as important to avoid variation as it is to avoid extremes.
Humidity levels in an enclosed storage area can be maintained with a small air conditioning unit, a dehumidifier and/or a humidifier. Inexpensive commercial humidity gauges are frequently inaccurate; use a wet-dry thermometer or sling psychrometer to control conditions.