Prevent Books from Slipping with Mailing Tubes

RF_mailing_tubes3I’ve lamented for several years about the challenge most of us face keeping fiction novels organized on the shelf. The books can get lost on deeper shelves with inadequate book ends. In a day when hundreds of students are visiting the shelves, popular series of books get moved around, fall down, and hide behind each other. I don’t have shelves with built in dividers (love them! miss them!). Book ends are a constant trial with better ones being used on priority shelves.

A friend, the wise Suzanna Panter, told me that she put mailing tubes behind her books to prevent them from sliding too far back on the shelves, but they were pricey. Getting 70 mailing tubes is more challenging than asking teachers to bring you their empty tissue and shoe boxes. I had also started eying the boxes at Costco and Sam’s. The flat produce ones are great at the back of shelves, but they don’t all match.

RF_mailing_tubes1After discussing the topic once more with a friend said she inherited a collection with paper-covered shoe boxes lining the back of her shelves, I decided to go searching for mailing tubes online. Individually they are about $4 apiece. Too pricey. I started searching for bulk purchases and found some for less than $1.50 each. The trick is finding the vendor with the lowest shipping prices. The first order I tried to total up had shipping exceeding $250! Uline turned out to the best I found from about five searches. I chose 75 4-inch diameter, 36-inch long, mailing tubes. They come in large boxes of 25 each. I could have possibly picked them up from Allentown, PA for a processing fee only (no shipping).


RF_mailing_tubes2When I got the tubes, I packed them into my car for a ride to my nearest radial arm saw. Thanks, Dad! We used a vice to add a stopper to the edge of the saw so that I wouldn’t have to measure and mark each tube. Cutting 75 tubes took me less than half an hour. I cut most of them shelf length, but then cut a few in half and in thirds for the few shelves that have a few oversize books.

In place, these 4-inch tubes are perfect on my shelves! My book ends are effective. There is enough space at the front of the shelves for most of the books. The few picture books that are on the shelves…well, I cheat. I moved them to one end or the other of the shelf and they slide all the way back beside the end of the tube.


  1. Great idea! I used a similar idea by using pool noodles. Easy to cut to fit.

  2. Never thought of using tubes. We use tension rods (normally for curtains). More costly than the tubes, but no cutting involved and they tend to hold up for years. Plus you can use them on a variety of shelves.

  3. Wow, what a great way to use mailing tubes! I never really thought about using the tubes in this way but its a great idea. I always find books from my shelves falling down or hiding behind one another so I am very excited to use the tubes to prevent this from happening. How big should the tube be in order to work?Thanks Carolyn for the great post!

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