Do libraries fumigate books to disinfect them?

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Yeah, but if I take a book into the bathroom at the library before putting it back on the shelf, will they even know?


My library system has opened book drops and is boxing items for 72 hours before checking them in. The people doing the boxing are wearing PPE. It’s hoped that the virus will be dead by that point.

As for day to day use; we don’t know how that will be handled. People take books off the shelves or ask for retrievals of reference material in storage, and we don’t know how those items will be dealt with.


My local library is also opening up return boxes but won’t allow browsing for many months. Book reserve & curbside pickup only is the word. They’re still working out the details.


Thankfully our bathrooms were on the opposite side of our RFID gates, or else I imagine this would have been a frequent occurrence.

This is what ours is doing as well. The real germ issue in the library is the folks hanging out in the library, especially if you have a branch that is too small like ours (a new one is in the process of being built but a long way from being open). The public computers are a germ minefield. I am pretty sure my years working in the library are what made me the germaphobe I am today.


I’d be more worried about what libraries might have done in the past to get rid of, e.g., Dermestidae in their historical book collections.

I know first-hand from collections of (former) living things (and I don’t actually mean books here, rather zoological and botanical collections) what they did. A build-in watch glass in a drawer would, e.g., be filled with some drops of mercury, and the drawer would be closed again…

I wonder if librarians did the same, once. Dead skin is dead skin, and a lot of critters would have a go on parchment and book bindings, I guess. And that doesn’t even cover the things which actually would eat paper, or even the printing or illumination colours!

Worst thing to do with the conservation of paper is poor quality paper. Specifically woodpulp which eats itself, yellows, goes brittle, and crumbles to dust before most critters will go near it.

We’ve mostly moved past cheap pulp and college textbooks for example are usually composite papers and comparatively acid free. Which is funny because the publishers work hard at making them unusable year to year with a relentless new edition programme.

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No shit.

I used to use a lot of old scientific literature (the oldest I ever had was a 16th century account about Madagascar, which was amazingly handed out to me easier than it is sometimes nowadays to get a recent paper… :wink: ). Everything from about the 19th century onwards up until the 1950s is really a bit of a nuisance, and the worst period is 1929 to 1955, I think. A lot of cheap paper, brittle as hell. Wartime scientific papers especially so. One of my highlights was a french botanical study published in Tellicherry, in french, in 1942 AFAIR. Paper was rationed, and they had to publish it in India because Paris wasn’t possible, at all. I was able to track down an existing copy (and to the best of my knowledge, five remaining copies existed). I photocopy it. It was literally falling apart. I returned it. And ten years onwards, a flash flood entering the cellars I had to use to store my large body of papers destroyed it. I take a small comfort in the fact that I did return it to the library, and I maybe could go there again to gather a new copy. If not to many people handled the copy, that is… Or if they haven’t thrown it out.

Re: textbooks - I think I haven’t had one with acidic paper since the nineteen eighties!

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