Best Practices for Handling and Disinfecting Library Materials

The following information on quarantining and sanitizing library materials is based on the currently available data and will change as research evolves. The following information should not be interpreted as medical advice.

Evidence is mounting that COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person and less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces.

COVID-19 is transmitted through three major pathways: fomites (objects such as library materials), droplets (small bits of saliva or respiratory fluid that are expelled and then fall to the ground after travelling 3-6 feet), and aerosols (small bits of fluid that can linger in the air for minutes or hours).

Recent research indicates an overnight quarantine period of materials combined with frequent hand washing by library workers is likely sufficient to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 via library materials.

At this time, preservation and conservation experts seem to agree that the quarantine of library materials is the most effective known method of disinfection.

  • Wear gloves when retrieving materials to limit exposure (Nitrile preferred)
  • Place materials on carts or in boxes for quarantine
  • Quarantine materials in an out of the way location with little staff traffic
  • Quarantine overnight; label cart or boxes with quarantine ending date
  • Encourage patrons not to reshelve materials; quarantine materials handled by patrons and staff before returning to shelf

REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Project

The REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Project is a research based project studying how long COVID-19 survives on materials that are prevalent in libraries, archives, and museums. The REALM project’s intent is to provide information, not to give specific recommendations on materials handling.


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