The use of ventilation holes in small micro-environments has been proposed by the National Trust as a mechanism to improve the environmental conditions of moisture and temperature within bookshelves. At one National Trust historic property, this mechanism has been used to encourage air movement behind books as a possible strategy to reduce the risk of mould growth. It is believed that including ventilation holes as a passive design solution to promote airflow within micro-environments could prevent decay from occurring in archives of historic buildings. This paper investigates the mechanisms that cause airflow behind bookshelves using field measurements in three National Trust historical libraries. The measurements indicate that small but measurable velocities, up to 4 cm/s, can be generated passively behind bookshelves. Air movement in such confined micro-environments is probably caused by a combination of natural convection, caused by temperature differences between the walls and the interior and the exterior of the bookshelf, and forced convection due to drafts in the surrounding environment. While in some cases one mechanism prevailed, both mechanisms may be present simultaneously in most cases. Further research is needed to clarify how surface temperature drives air motion behind shelves.