Best Practices for Handling and Disinfecting Library Materials

The following suggestions for quarantining and sanitizing materials are based on the currently available data and may change as research evolves. The following information should not be interpreted as medical advice.

The Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) is a research-based project designed to produce authoritative, science-based information on how library materials should be handled to mitigate exposure of COVID-19 to library workers and visitors.

Initial findings indicate that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) is not detectable on commonly circulated library materials after three days of quarantine. The materials tested included the following items:

  1. Hardback book cover (buckram cloth)
  2. Softback book cover
  3. Plain paper pages inside a closed book
  4. Plastic book covering (biaxially oriented polyester film)
  5. DVD case

Therefore, quarantine of library materials for at least three (3) days may be preferred over aggressive cleaning strategies.

  • Wear gloves when retrieving materials to limit exposure (Nitrile preferred)
  • Place materials on carts or in boxes for quarantine; do not check materials in until after quarantine
  • Quarantine materials in an out of the way location with little staff traffic
  • Quarantine for 3-14 days; label cart or boxes with quarantine ending date
  • Sanitize cart or other surfaces where quarantined materials were stored
  • Double-bag smaller objects in zipper-style plastic bags
  • Books with plastic jackets can withstand small amounts of liquid cleaner and disinfectant after quarantine
  • Disinfect DVD/audio book, etc. cases after quarantine; clean discs via established disc-cleaning processes


Additional Resources


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