Library Materials Are Returned - Now What?

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Sanitizing Paper Library Materials

Dear Library Champion,

Many libraries in Manitoba are facing questions from their patrons about when they are going to start allowing access to their physical collections again. However, as part of their lending practices and future planning, libraries will have to decide how they will sanitize books to be safe for both staff and public use.

There is an abundance of information available on this subject, making it difficult to find a best practice or even corroborating information from different sources. This article is going to look at overall best practices on sanitizing books with information sources from official resources. However, it must be noted that a medical professional did not write this, and libraries should regularly check the Government of Manitoba COVID-19 and Government of Canada Coronavirus Disease websites for up to date information.

The one method of sterilizing books that has been agreed upon across many resources is time. It is unknown how long the COVID-19 virus can live on different surfaces in less than ideal conditions, so there are still a number of resources offering different windows for quarantine of materials. The American Library Association, in cooperation with the CDC, released a webinar entitled Mitigating COVID-19 When Managing Paper-Based, Circulating, and Other Types of Collections. In it, the host and guests discuss best practices of cleaning and sterilization of the library building and physical materials. While a cleaning solution can be used on laminated or library bound book covers with little damage, time and isolation are discussed as being the best and safest method for sanitation of paper materials. In the video, a 24-hour period of isolation for books and paper items is put forward as being sufficient. Other sources recommend longer periods, ranging between 72 hours to as long as two weeks.

Items in quarantine should be kept separate from other collection items, high traffic areas and employees to avoid potential contamination. If space does not permit this, items should be placed in sealed plastic bags or in other sealed containers and dated.

When cleaning book covers and other items, ensure that you are using a product that cleans and disinfects. Hard-surface disinfectants will have an 8-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) which has been issued by Health Canada, indicating that it is approved and safe for use in Canada. This will help to ensure that surfaces are effectively cleaned, and help kill bacteria and germs.

One method of sterilization that has been found to be ineffective is exposing items to sunlight, or UV light. It has been reported that it would take 40 minutes of exposure to strong UV rays, which would cause damage to the materials, and would be ineffective on areas that were not exposed. 

It is important to note that your library should decide on the method of sterilization that staff are most comfortable with, and feel would provide the most protection to staff and patrons. As time progresses, more information on effective sanitization methods will become available, and it is important to keep watch for this.

Additional Resources:
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth Busters
Can You Kill Coronavirus With UV Light?
List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2

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Sport, Culture and Heritage > Public Library Services

Visit the Library Training Calendar on the Public Library Services Branch website for a detailed listing of current training opportunities in Manitoba and online at: 
PLSB provides an all-access pass for all public libraries in Manitoba to premium Canadian webinars hosted by the Education Institute (EI). This all-access pass allows your library to participate live in any EI webinar over the course of the year. EI is a continuing education program for the library community developed by The Partnership of Provincial and Territorial Library Associations of Canada. 
Recordings are always available for libraries unable to attend live EI sessions, you access the full 20162017, 2018, 2019, 2020 training archives by selecting the desired links.

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