Packing Guidelines for Collection Material

August 9, 2019

If you are shipping an agreed-upon donation or purchase to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, these packing guidelines will help ensure that your materials arrive safely and that our staff can process them efficiently upon receipt. We are happy to accept modest shipments of up to ten boxes via USPS, FedEx, UPS, or DHL at your convenience. For larger shipments, fragile material requiring special handling, or international shipments, please contact the appropriate curator to coordinate with us in advance of shipment.

Choosing a Container

  • Select an appropriate size of container for the materials you are shipping.
    • Boxes should be large enough to comfortably fit the materials, but not so large as to leave extra space or encourage very heavy boxes.
  • If materials are already housed in record carton/banker’s box style boxes with a separate lid, please pack that box inside another box.
    • We prefer 18” L x 14” W x 12” H boxes for shipping record cartons.
  • Padded envelopes may be used for small amounts of material on paper
    • Label the envelope “Do Not Bend” and brace against bending or crushing.
    • Secure it carefully to prevent opening in transit
  • If reusing a box, please do the following:
    • Remove or obscure labels/information related to previous shipments
    • Clean out any debris from previous shipments
  • If possible, avoid the following:
    • Strangely shaped containers
    • Plastic tubs and crates
    • Extremely oversized boxes
    • Boxes that once contained perishable materials

Choosing Other Packing Supplies

  • We prefer the following materials:
    • Clean, white packing paper with no ink or printing on it
    • Bubble wrap
    • Cardboard spacers
  • Avoid using the following when possible:
    • Packing peanuts
    • Styrofoam
    • Newspaper or used magazines
    • Plastic page protectors
    • Rubber bands and binder clips
    • Hanging file folders
    • Empty USPS/FedEx/UPS or other envelopes used to fill empty space
    • Plastic shopping bags or anything that previously contained perishable material

Packing Boxes

  • Place materials in appropriately-sized boxes
    • Dense items like books should be placed in smaller boxes and not be overloaded.
  • Avoid having loose/unsecured items inside boxes
  • Whenever possible, papers should be placed in folders that are
    • Clearly labelled
    • Standing up inside the box (not bent or slouched)
    • Not stacked flat or laid on their side
  • Leave space for packing material between the lid of the box and the materials
    • Fill empty space between materials and the top of the box with packing paper or bubble wrap.
    • Keeping materials away from lid protects them during transit and during opening of boxes upon receipt.
  • Use care when using tape to assemble boxes and secure materials.
    • Tape all seams of each box, but try to avoid using tape inside a box.
    • Use particular care when sealing envelopes.
  • House oversize materials in appropriately-sized containers. Do not fold or otherwise force them to fit into standard boxes.
  • For fragile items or items that are framed and/or contain glass
    • Wrap securely in bubble wrap
    • Avoid over-packing box or placing weight on/around fragile items
  • For books and other volumes
    • Never pack volumes on the fore edge (spine up). Packing flat, spine down, or upright is safest.
    • Segregate or separately wrap volumes with red rot damage.
    • Keep binding fragments with their original volumes by wrapping them together or putting them in a separate enclosure inside the shipping package/box. Do not lay binding fragments inside volumes, which may damage spines.
  • Fill empty space within a box with bubble wrap or packing paper to prevent shifting in transit.


  • Please limit box weight to no more than 35 lbs.
  • If impossible to limit box weight to 35 lbs., label the box as “HEAVY.”
  • If possible, double-box parcels weighing more than 35 lbs.
  • Over-packed, heavy boxes can be damaged in transit and slow down processing of materials

Box Identification

  • For shipments with multiple parcels, clearly identify boxes with sequential numbers and include total number of boxes in shipment on each box (e.g. Box 1 of 4, Box 2 of 4, Box 3 of 4, Box 4 of 4)
  • Write numbers on two or more sides of each box (carriers sometimes obscure identification with shipping labels)
  • All boxes should have a legible return address

Packing List

  • A packing list helps us locate and identify materials more quickly and resolve problems if anything is damaged in transit.
  • At minimum, please provide:
    • List of numbered boxes with a corresponding description of contents for each box
    • Location information (e.g. box number) for any items/materials of particular value
  • Include a copy of the entire packing list in Box 1.
    • Optionally, include in each box a description of its contents.
  • Packing lists should reflect the materials present.
    • Items not included should be removed from the packing list.
    • Items added after completion of initial packing list should be added to the list.
  • Any additional documentation and contextual description (e.g. previous inventories or descriptive lists, dates of the materials, extended biographical/historical information) provided is welcome and will speed processing of materials.
  • Keep a copy of all packing lists for your records.