Written by: on August 10, 2020 @ 6:00 am

Living through the age of COVID-19 has magnified the focus on the spread and transmission of germs. Regular disinfection of public transportation surfaces, 6-foot line rules, and the rising support for a cashless society seem like a germaphobe’s dream, some even saying these precautions could holdover once the coronavirus outbreak ceases.  As we reduce the sharing of high touch materials like tools and equipment, what happens to institutions build on sharing? Our public libraries could soon be facing permanent retirement.

Since their foundation, libraries have stood as a foundation of learning, record keeping, and professional development. Libraries are free educational resources to everyone, providing historical context and truth, connecting communities one book at a time. As library books are shared, a bond is created by newfound information and a mutual experience. As long as records have been kept, libraries have existed, adapting from clay tablets to today’s paper novel. Libraries are important centers for gathering and fellowship within our communities.

The question of the sanitation of library books is almost as old as the Germ Theory, with an article titled “The Disinfection of Books” being published in the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association in 1911. This article details concern that smallpox, measles, scarlet fever, trachoma, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid, and tuberculosis could be transmitted through the sharing of library books. Experiments have shown that recently handled books can in fact contain microbes such as the herpes virus, streptococcus bacteria, tuberculosis, staphylococcus bacteria, various fungi, and many other germs. These experiments also concluded that books brought back to the library within a three-day window grew more bacteria colonies than books handled by more library visitors. If a book is on a library shelf untouched with no new germs added, the bacteria lying in the pages begin to die off.

While library books are full of knowledge and microbes, these common germs are found in quantities that are unlikely to infect you. Germs in larger variety can be found at your desk, office microwave, kitchen sink and sponge, and makeup brush, yet few think twice about touching these objects. If you grab your cellphone or flip a light switch without doing a throughout disinfection, reading your favorite book at your public library is no challenge for your immune system. Have no fear in visiting your public library and expanding on your reading list!

Germs are all around us, being left on each and every surface we come in contact with! You can play High Touch High Tech’s Germ Game as a friendly reminder to wash your hands and regularly disinfect surfaces. https://sciencemadefun.net/downloads/germ_game.pdf

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