Appendix A: Safe Handling of Physical Library Materials1
Quarantine of library materials is the most effective known method of disinfection.2
Suggested quarantine periods for paper-based materials (such as books) range from 243-1204 hours (1 to 5 days). Suggested quarantine periods for non-paper-based library materials (such as plastic-covered books, CDs, DVDs, etc.) range from 725-2166 hours (3 to 9 days).
The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services' website
Handling LibraryMaterials and Collections During a Pandemic has COVID-19 information and resources on handling library collections.
It will be up to the individual library to decide the duration of quarantine for each material type.
It is recommended that libraries set up an area of the building as a materials isolation zone for those items that may have recently been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. This area could be a cleared range of shelving, a series of multiple book carts, or even piles of books on a table.
Materials should be labeled with dates of when those items entered quarantine and when they are safe to be reshelved. Courier totes and bins should also be quarantined.
Currently, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, OCLC, and Battelle are collaborating to create and distribute science-based information and recommended practices designed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to museum, library, or archival services' staff and visitors. The project's website,
Reopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM), provides project updates, a research timeline, webinars, and resources.
Project updates are available by email.
1The Appendix is adapted from Recommendations for Library Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Regents Public Library Advisory Council. April 2020)
2Kampf, G., Todt, D., Pfaender, S., Steinmann, E., "Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents." The Journal of Hospital Infection. February 6, 2020.
The Journal of Hospital Infection article also tests the effects of various disinfectants on the novel coronavirus, these chemicals are not safe to use on library and historic materials. There is no evidence or studies to suggest that expensive "book sterilization" or "book disinfection" equipment is effective or will not cause unnecessary damage to collections. Even methods for UV sterilization have not been standardized.
3Institute for Museum and Library Services. Mitigating COVID-19 When Managing Paper-Based, Circulating, and Other Types of Collections. March 30, 2020.
4Striegel, M., "COVID-19 Basics: Disinfecting Cultural Resources." National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, National Parks Service. March 25, 2020.
5Northeast Document Conservation Center, "Disinfecting Books and Other Collections." March 26, 2020.
6 Kampf, G., Todt, D., Pfaender, S., Steinmann, E., "Persistence of coronaviruses."