The most common insects that affect paper-based collections are silverfish and firebrats, psocids (booklice), and cockroaches. Many insects are attracted to dark, small, seldom-disturbed spaces, where significant damage can be done before the problem is discovered.
Most insects are not attracted to paper itself, but rather to sizing, adhesives, and starches. However, some insects will attack cellulose (paper and cardboard), as well as protein (parchment and leather). Insect damage is caused not just by eating, but also by tunneling, nesting, and bodily secretions.
Rats, mice, squirrels, birds, and other small animals can also cause significant damage to paper collections. Rodents especially are attracted to environments that are dark, wet, dirty, cluttered, and undisturbed.
The use of pesticides to prevent pests and respond to infestations has been common in cultural institutions, but preservation professionals now recommend a strategy called integrated pest management (IPM). IPM relies on non-chemical methods to prevent and manage pest infestation.