Avoiding Book Injuries

Nasty paper cuts, falling books, or worse falling bookshelves!?! These are just a few of the common injuries of readers, librarians, and booksellers. Book injuries can be badges of honor, but they can also be easily avoided. Below are common book related injuries and how to avoid/prevent them.

1. Falling shelves

I first learned about falling shelves as a babysitter. No babies died on my watch, but in my American Red Cross training course I learned how to make sure shelves are anchored. Of course I also learned how to prevent children from climbing on shelves, if only I could use these techniques for customers at the bookshop!

When shelves are first installed the bases can be screwed directly into floors depending on the sort of setup you have. Bookcases that are against walls can be attached to walls with brackets or screwed directly to the back of the shelf into the wall.

Floating shelves or individual shelves that are not in bookcases can be anchored into all with extra heavy duty mollies or attached with braces and support chains.

Finally, bookcases that are free standing on the floor like you’re walking through a library, should both be bolted to the floor and to each other with an overreaching bracket between the two shelves to anchor the top.

It’s very important to make sure this is done properly because customers at bookshops will step on the first set of shelves rather than looking for a proper stool. I understand because at home I frequently want to reach for books quickly when I can’t find a stool and don’t want to ask for help so I take dangerous actions reaching for them, but seriously folks safety first!

2. Falling books

Ugh! I hate this!!! I recently was up on a step stool shelving SAT prep books and the bottom of the spine hit me on the bridge of my nose.

Posted this on my instagram stories the night it happened, feel free to follow me https://www.instagram.com/jillianpikora/

Clearly librarians and booksellers need hard hats. Until we make a run for the construction industry we’ll have to come up with safer measures like not overstuffing the top shelf with heavy books.

In addition to adjusting how we fill shelves, proper supports for shelves can prevent things from falling on us.

Some libraries have safety bars to prevent books from fall or you can have glass doors. Remember this may make shelving books more difficult but there is the added bonus: little kids won’t pull all the books off the shelves.

This can be recreated at home in  children’s room with bungee cords or nylon rope. In a grown-up space or historical libraries rare books are often stored behind wooden or metal bars or even glass doors. You can find industrial strength supplies for this by searching online for ‘earthquake proof shelving’.

3. Slipping off ladders

We all imagine we are Belle in Beauty and the Beast when we hop on a library ladder.

Unfortunately, we often do this dangerously.

Yeah, no. Books are not ladders. Bookshelves are not steps or ladders. And most importantly, we should not be performing musical numbers on library ladders, sorry Belle!

When on a step stool like at Barnes and Nobles, Books-A-Million, and the like you can balance your self on the first step before climbing higher. You can hold onto the frame of the shelf for balance, but do this like a ballerina at the barre not Jungle Grip G.I. Joe because if the shelf is not secure you may be back at common injury number one: falling shelves.

If you are lucky enough to use a sliding ladder first make sure it is properly pulled away from the wall and in the climbing position. Then grip the ladder with both hands and carefully climb in the center of each rung.  As cute as library fashion on pinterest and instagram are, please only climb in flat shoes that are firmly attached to your feet so you can avoid losing your balance.

4. When books attack

Harry Potter’s Monster Book of Monsters is the best example I can think of that explains how I feel when books come at me. I know that sounds dramatic but a veteran of the book selling world recently had a book tumble out of a box and skin the length of his forearm. That’s not the worst book attack I’ve heard of; a manager has had a book fall on their face and cause their nose to gush blood while customers continue to ask for help (btw customers please don’t do that to us, if you see blood just walk away or ask is if we need help).  Books are evil. Ok, no, reading books helps fight evil, all avid readers know this, but books can beat us up if we are not careful.

Paper cuts are par for the course and so are broken nails when are we shelving or looking up information quickly to help as many patrons as possible. Poorly stacked books often attack so shelving well is important. This means books are spined vertically (spines facing outward) or laying on their backs. Coverings facing out (aka face outs) are not ideal for paper backs, loose bindings, or antiques. Older books can have loose bits, debris, and dirt. Take more time to spine them properly. If they are rare antiques, wear gloves to prevent the dirt from getting on you and the oils from your skin from get on the book.

Poorly made paper backs and baby board books can have glue wads. Avoid cuts by using a nail file to knock off or sand down the excess glue. When you are in a hurry the hard glue can cut you or worse a baby eating a delicious book can get a cut on their tongue. Ouch!

5. Injuries related to carts, book tables, or steps

When the library steps with builtin shelves are not balanced they are no longer steps, they will just tip over.

Spin a lazy susan book table too fast and it can land on your feet.

Unload half a side of a wheeling library cart and it can rain books down on your back. This happened to me when shelving fairy tales and storybook collections. Those heavy, hard covered books left more than one bruise.

When it comes to book safe it is about balancing books, yourself, and slowing down to each to experience. These tips will help you avoid paper cuts and other injuries.

As readers we have a positive relationship with books. We read, research, shelf, and spend time among books because we love them. Be kind  to books and stay safe to avoid this relationship with books becoming one of love and hate.

Happy reading!

Check back next week for more bookstore insights.

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