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NCLS Reopening Guide: Circulating Materials

Cleaning Materials

IMLS and the CDC are conducting a study of COVID-19 regarding library materials. Their testing shows the virus lasts longer on smoother services including book covers and not as long on porous materials such as paper and cardboard. Quarantining materials is recommended as disinfecting all materials with chemicals can be costly, time consuming, and depending on the cleaner, damage the items.

Depending on the material type and whether those materials were stacked or unstacked, the results of the virus being detectable vary. As shown in test 4, stacking materials does prolong the survivability of the virus. While the virus has been detectable after a period of days in many cases, there are still many unknowns regarding spread of infection from handling materials that may have virus cells on them.


Test 1 studied 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.

Test 2 studied the following items.

(1) Braille paper pages
(2) Glossy paper pages from a coffee table book
(3) Magazine pages
(4) Children's board book
(5) Archival folders

Test 3 studied the following items.

(1) Talking Book USB Cassette
(2) DVD
(3) Storage Bag (flexible plastic)
(4) Storage Container (rigid plastic)
(5) Plexiglass

Test 4 studied the following items. Some of the items tested were stacked, compared to test 1 as they were unstacked.

(1) Hardback book cover
(2) Softcover book cover
(3) Plastic protective cover
(4) DVD case
(5) Expanded polyethylene foam



Circulation Rules

Consider these items for reducing risk of infection when circulating materials.

Extending Loan Periods. Give patrons more time to return items so they can delay their return to the library.

Going fine free. Reduces risk of covid-19 through cash handling.

Increasing Number of Checked out Materials. If patrons can check more items out, they can delay their return to the library.