Wiping, Quarantining Books Can Be Done As Preventative Measure For Coronavirus

Ste. Genevieve County Library employee Lindsey Picou wiped down a library book last week. Library director Shawn Long recommends “quarantining” books for at least 24 hours, if borrowed or purchased from someone else. Disinfectant wipes, if not overly wet, may also be used on books, he said. (Photo by MARK EVANS/Herald staff)

With children and many entire families spending days at home, reading material may well be passed back and forth between households and new reading material may come in the mail.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, how safe are books and how can they be made safe without damaging them?
Shawn Long, executive director of the Ste. Genevieve County Library, provided some input.
“The ALA [American Library Association] and the Missouri Library Directors have actually had a bunch of discussions about this,” Long said. “The consensus has kind of been that the best thing for books is time. So, a lot of the libraries that are still doing pick-ups or curbside drop-off stuff, they’re putting their books in quarantine, so the staff has gloves and they put the books in a separate section as they come in.”
The local library is shut down for the moment, along with the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center in which it is located. Long also closed the drop-off box, requesting patrons keep their books until the danger is over. There will be no fines issued, naturally.
“First, we pulled the drop box because we would prefer that people just hold onto their books until this is over,” Long said. “Rather than risk people dropping off books and subjecting my staff to that, I pulled the drop box. But, as I’ve learned more about it, as people drop off books, we wipe them down … the staff is gloved-up, they’ll wipe them down. They’ll probably go back on the shelf in the next day or two.”
A few patrons have insisted on turning the books back in.
“So, what we do, as we get them, we do wipe them down with a Clorox wipe or an alcohol wipe,” he said. “We wipe down the cover of it. You can do the same thing at home, but most of the library books here have the jackets.”
The plastic dust covers make it easy to wipe down books with no fear of degrading the covers.
“But, according to the ALA, the risk associated with getting it from pages of books is very minimal,” Long said. “Most people will say, just put it in isolation for 24 to 48 hours before you put it back on the shelf and whatever germs may be on it are dead by then.”

See complete story in the April 15 edition of the Herald.