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Safe & Sanitized: Library Materials

By: Harlee Rozell | August 05, 2020 |

Innovation in Uncertainty: Research, Resources, Real-World Solutions

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Being prepared for this Fall has been an uphill battle. From helping develop new check-out techniques to updating sanitation procedures, you’ve been through a lot already. Yet librarians have remained innovative in the face of uncertainty, continuing to serve their communities and readers. So, we want to help make it easier for you to keep up with the latest resources and research so that you can focus on creating real-world solutions that work for your library.

Let’s talk books: the backbone of every library

Recent Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) studies have shown that the majority of books are safe to re-circulate within 3 days. REALM researchers note that the 3-day quarantine for books can safely take place in an air-conditioned space at normal room temperature with relative humidity (i). Whew! This means you can stow away your returned books right inside your library until they’re safe to go back on the shelves! However, the researchers noted they did not store the books in a stacked or shelved formation for the study, so if you’re forced to stack your books for decontamination consider letting them quarantine for an extra day, just to be safe!

Some of your books, magazines, folders, and other office supplies might also need to quarantine for a day or two longer. According to the second REALM test, some types of cellulose-based paper materials - like glossy paper pages, children’s board books, and braille papers - sitting in a stacked configuration needed 4 days of quarantine to decontaminate (ii). However, the researchers found that magazines, which typically have glossy paper pages, still retained trace amounts of COVID-19 after 4 days. Researhers plan to do another test re-evaluating these materials to determine the necessary quarantine length for magazines (iii).

What about non-book items?

When it comes to the other things scattered around your library – small office supplies, furniture surfaces and technology – the best practice is to limit their use, especially if shared with others. However, that isn’t always possible. To limit the spread of germs on those shared materials and spaces in your library, the CDC recommends you ask library visitors to wash their hands or use a sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as often as possible (iv). And, to be sure those germs aren’t stuck on any surfaces, they also suggest creating a schedule for routine cleaning and disinfecting with sanitation products that meet the EPA’s COVID-19 disinfection criteria (v). If you must use disinfectant wipes, it's recommended to use ones containing a minimum of 70% alcohol (vi).

In any circumstance, just remember to be cautious handling and disinfecting the materials coming back into your library, set up a routine sanitation schedule using products proven to fight COVID-19, and wash or sanitize your hands as often as possible. Then rest assured knowing your library can safely serve the community because of your continued dedication and innovation!

UPDATE 08/19/2020:

The REALM Test 3 results were published online on 08/18/2020. Researchers tested quarantine length for talking book/USB cassettes, DVDs, storage bags (flexible plastic), storage containers (rigid plastic), and plexiglass. Results showed that storage bags (flexible plastic) and DVDs were safe after 5 days of quarantine in normal environments, not stacked or shelved. Further testing it needed to determine quarantine length for storage containers (rigid plastic), plexiglass/acrylic, and talking book/USB cassettes (vii). 

UPDATE 09/03/2020:

The REALM Test 4 results were published online on 09/03/2020. Researchers tested quarantine length for items from Test 1 (hard- and soft-back books, plastic book/Mylar coverings, storage/shipping foam, and DVD/CD cases) when stacked or shelved. Results found that after 6 days of quarantine in normal environtments, trace amounts of COVID-19 were still present on all objects. Researchers noted that this means stacked and shelved books would need much longer quarantining time than those not stacked or shelved. They state: " longer quarantine time can be considered; or, other methods such as application of heat may promote more rapid decontamination and may warrant further investigation." They do not reccommend using cleaning supplies on these materials to shorten quarantine length, as they could potentially degrade the objects. In October, they will be publishing a literature review on the effects of heat, UV light, and other methods of decontamination. (viii). 

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 Safe & Sanitized

Works Cited:

(i) WebJunction. REALM Project Round 1 Test Results Available (Published June 22, 2020).

  • Round 1 Test of the REALM project focused on hard- and soft-back books, paper pages inside books, plastic book coverings, and DVD cases. The results concluded that no indication of the virus was present after the materials had quarantined in a normal, air-conditioned room for 3 days. It is important to note, however, that the researchers did not stack or shelf the books during quarantine, so consider adding an extra day or two to your quarantine time if you must stack or shelf the materials.

(ii) WebJunction. REALM Project: Test Set 2 Results Announced (Published July 20, 2020).

  • Round 2 Test of the REALM project focused on braille paper pages, glossy paper pages, magazine pages, children’s board books, and archival folders. The test found that the virus was no longer present on archival folders after 2 days, and on braille pages, glossy paper pages, and children’s board books after 4 days. However, trace amounts of COVID-19 were still detected on magazines after 4 days. Round 3 Test will address this.

(iii) WebJunction. REALM Project: Happening Now (Retrieved on July 10, 2020).

  • Starting July 10, 2020, Round 3 Test of the REALM project began. Keep an eye out for results as they’re published in the coming weeks! Test 3 results are scheduled to be published in mid-August.
  • On August 4, 2020, Round 4 Test of the REALM project was announced. This test is scheduled to have results in mid-September and will be testing the same materials from Test 1 (hard- and softback books, plastic book coverings, paper pages inside a book, and DVD cases), but in a stacked formation. 

(iv) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Considerations for Schools: Operating Schools During COVID-19 (Updated 05/19/2020).

  • This site, a subset of the overall CDC Schools and Child Care Programs webpage, gives guidelines and advise for operating schools when students are in the buildings. It gives advice on promoting behaviors that would reduce risk of infection, printable posters and flyers to hang around your school about proper handwashing and social distancing, instructions for maintaining healthy environments and systems like air ventilation, and a full preparation guide for when someone does get sick.

(v) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Considerations for Schools: Operating Schools During COVID-19 (Updated 05/19/2020). Note: the EPA says sanitation products on “List N” are expected to be more effective for COVID-19.

(vi) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cleaning and Disinfection for Households (Updated July 10, 2020).

  • This contains full instructions from the CDC on disinfecting common household items - many of which can be found in libraries and schools, too! Strategies and suggestions for cleaning items like fabric furniture, electronics, carpets, and more are located on this webpage.
  • This contains the results of Test 3 of the REALM project which tested quarantine length for talking book/USB cassettes, DVDs, storage bags (flexible plastic), storage containers (rigid plastic), and plexiglass. Results showed that storage bags (flexible plastic) and DVDs were safe after 5 days of quarantine in normal environments, not stacked or shelved. Further testing it needed to determine quarantine length for storage containers (rigid plastic), plexiglass/acrylic, and talking book/USB cassettes. 
  • This contains the results of Test 4 of the REALM project which tested quarantine length for items from Test 1 (hard- and soft-back books, plastic book/Mylar coverings, storage/shipping foam, and DVD/CD cases) when stacked or shelved. Results showed that after 6 days, trace amounts of the virus were still present on all materials. It is suggested to quarantine them in a way that they are not stacked or shelved. This link also includes a graphic for quarantine lengths created by the REALM researchers.
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Harlee Rozell

Marketing Generalist
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