How to Quarantine Public Library Materials
As libraries across the country begin to expand their services with curbside pickup and plan for how they will reopen their doors to the public, the question of how to transfer library materials back and forth safely is on everyone’s minds.
It can be a challenge to find definitive answers, as sources and research can be conflicting. Below you’ll find a roundup of the research on how to quarantine materials and the steps to follow based on recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Library Association (ALA), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT).
Quarantine for the Recommended Time
At this time, there are various guidelines for how long to quarantine library materials. ALA has assembled a wealth of information on their Handling Library Materials and Collections During a Pandemic page. Their sources for how to quarantine and disinfect books include the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NDCC), which recommends a 24- to 48-hour quarantine of returned books. The Institute of Museum and Library Services suggests following the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation of a 24-hour quarantine.
The preliminary research cited by ALA indicates that COVID-19 can survive on harder surfaces for up to three days. However, the NCPTT cites an article from the Journal of Hospital Infection that states the virus can live on paper four to five days and on plastics for up to nine days. Depending on the surface, items should be quarantined for the recommended number of days.
Limit Transfer of Germs
The NDCC recommends wearing gloves to transport items into quarantine and removing them immediately after to avoid transferring the virus to other surfaces. Staff should also wear masks when working with quarantined materials and wash their hands for at least 20 seconds after handling materials, per CDC guidelines.
Separate Circulating Materials
Ensure that your patrons know the protocol for returning items to your library. Is there a specific book return you would like them to use? Are you accepting returns at curbside pickup? Even if you are very clear in your communication, be prepared to manage patrons attempting to return items at other locations or times.
Dedicate specific booktrucks or bins for quarantined items, or place them in bags for the quarantine period. They should be labeled with the date they were placed in quarantine to help track when they can be circulated again.
Consider Disinfecting Before Reshelving
The quarantine time is designed to eliminate the need for disinfecting, as the virus should no longer live on the surface of those materials. However, after quarantining for the allotted number of hours, you may wish to wipe items that can withstand it, such as book jacket covers or DVD cases.
Share your protocol with all staff members and display the steps to ensure they’re being followed.
Follow the Research
For further information, watch pediatrician and children’s librarian Dr. Dipesh Navsaria’s presentation “COVID-19: Safety Tips for Reopening Your Library,” and check out the “Checklist for Library Curbside Pickup Services” and “10 Take-Home Kits for Your Summer Reading Program.”
As researchers learn more about COVID-19, we’ll continue to monitor the studies and keep you informed about the best ways to manage your circulating collections to keep everyone safe.