On September 3, 2020 the REALM Project released a statement indicating “that the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 is still detectable after six days on four common library materials when they are stacked, which is a significantly longer attenuation period than had been detected on similar materials when they were not stacked.”
“The findings are part of the REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project designed to generate scientific information to support the handling of core library, museum, and archival materials as these institutions begin to resume operations and reopen to the public. Scientists at Battelle have now completed four separate tests on groups of commonly found and frequently handled materials in these institutions.”
“In the most recent test, scientists tested four materials similar to those in the first test group—the cover of hardcover books (buckram cloth), the cover of softback books, a DVD case, and mylar protective book cover jackets—only this time, the materials were stacked to simulate common storage configurations in libraries and archives. While the virus was not detectable on the materials laid flat after three days in the first test, the virus was still detectable on similar materials after six days when the materials were stacked.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, MSU Libraries has sought to increase the sanitation and safety of our physical space and loanable materials through increased cleaning and quarantining measures. The library employed the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s guidelines for lending materials, which recommends quarantining collection items for a minimum of 3 days as the most effective way to disinfect materials after their handling by staff and patrons.
Access Services has taken great efforts to ensure the proper handling of materials by requiring staff to wear gloves when handling returned materials, regularly changing gloves following handling, quarantining materials for 3 days before their return to the collection, and the wiping down of hard surfaces following quarantine for items like laptops and tablets. Best practices for COVID-19 continue to evolve as scientists better understand the virus and its survivability on surfaces. The REALM project recently released an updated study on the length of time the SARS-CoV-2 virus was detectable on materials in a stacked versus unstacked configuration. Details from the report are informing discussions and potential changes to the handling of materials. We will continue to adapt and develop best practices as scientific reports and information becomes available.