Q. Where can I find information on how to safely handle library materials during the COVID-19 pandemic?
SLSS is unable to provide specific guidelines for safely handling materials during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the evolving recommendations and guidelines coming from the scientific community on how COVID-19 is transmitted and the rapidly changing nature of COVID-19 research. And, public health guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID 19 are also being updated frequently. Thus, the best approach is to review the literature and public health recommendations to form your own local policies and procedures. It's also a good idea to check back on the recommendations/sources you're basing your policies and procedures on in case there are any updates.
The information below is being provided to help libraries make decisions on how to safely handle materials during this pandemic. This guide will be updated as new information becomes available. If there is any information you believe should be added to this guide, please email email@example.com.
Last updated December 18, 2020.
The REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Project is a partnership between OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle. Its purpose is to conduct research on how long the COVID-19 virus survives on materials that are prevalent in libraries, archives, and museums. To date, it has published a literature review of research on COVID-19 survival times on a variety of surfaces.
- Systematic literature review (published June 17, 2020)
- Compilation of all referenced sources (includes links to full text)
- Surface attenuation results and methods (includes summary of how long COVID-19 survives on a variety of surfaces)
- Collections and Facilities: Caring for Your Resources During COVID-19 (October 8 webinar)
- Phase 2 Literature Review (published October 14, 2020)
The REALM Project is also conducting their own research on how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces.
- Test 2: Natural attenuation as a decontamination approach for SARS-CoV-2 on five paper-based library and archives materials (published July 20, 2020)
- Research shows virus undetectable on five highly circulated library materials after three days (published June 22, 2020)
- Test 3: Natural attenuation as a decontamination approach for SARS-CoV-2 on five plastic-based materials
- Test 4: Natural attenuation as a decontamination approach for SARS-CoV-2 on stacked library materials and expanded polyethylene foam (published September 3, 2020)
- Test 5: Natural attenuation as a decontamination approach for SARS-CoV-2 on textile materials (published October 14, 2020)
- Test 6: Natural attenuation as a decontamination approach for SARS-CoV-2 on building materials (published November 19, 2020)
- Visual Aids for REALM Test Results (published December 18, 2020)
The ALA COVID-19 response website contains links to a wide variety of resources on how libraries can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources specific to the safe handling library materials include:
- ALCTS: Handling Library Materials and Collections During a Pandemic
- ACRL: Pandemic Resources for Academic Libraries: Collection Maintenance
IFLA's website includes a list of key resources for libraries in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This non-exhaustive list is updated regularly. Sections specific to the safe handling of library materials include:
The AIHA has published a guidance document for reopening libraries and museums. This document includes information on effectively and safely cleaning materials and high-contact surfaces such as circulation desks. This document is updated regularly.
- Reopening: Guidance for Libraries (Version 3, published June 25, 2020)
- Reopening: Guidance for Museums and Collecting Institutions (Version 3, published July 15, 2020)
The NEDCC has published a guide on disinfecting books and other library collections. It includes recommendations on quarantine periods and methods for safely disinfecting library materials.
The CDC has published a guide on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Sections of this guide relevant to the safe handling of library materials include:
- How it spreads
- Protect yourself
- Cloth face covers
- Wearing gloves
- Cleaning your home
- Detailed disinfection guidance
The CDC has also issued guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces and guidelines specific to institutions of higher education.