Are library books unsanitary


We received many inquiries as to whether the virus could be transmitted through books, for example. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment estimates the risk for toys, food, etc. as unlikely. More information can be found here.

Study of the "REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Project", status: December 14th, 2020

The "Institute of Museum and Library Services, Washington, DC" presents the latest findings from a study by the "REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Project", which shows how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the COVID, has persisted -19 triggers, holds on to materials that are mainly in circulation in archives, libraries and museums.

A total of six tests, which were carried out from June to November 2020, examined how the Covid-19 virus adheres to different surfaces. The tests showed, for example, that after one day the virus was no longer detectable on the covers of hardcover and softcover books as well as on DVD sleeves. After three days, the virus was no longer detectable on paper inside a book or on foiled book covers.

The full study with all tests can be found here.

The project itself is supported, among others, by OCLC in partnership with Battelle, a non-profit global scientific research and development organization.

You can register via the REALM project website to be informed when new information is published.

On April 21, 2020, the dbv received the following information from the Federal Office for Risk Assessment (BfR) upon request:

The most important transmission path for the new type of corona virus is the so-called droplet infection, in which the corona viruses are released into the air by infected people or animals and then inhaled. There are currently no cases in which it has been proven that people were infected with the new type of coronavirus by other means, for example by consuming contaminated food or through contact with contaminated objects. For other coronaviruses, too, there are no known reports of infections from food or contact with dry surfaces.

Transmission via surfaces that were recently contaminated with viruses is, however, conceivable as a result of smear infections. However, due to the relatively low stability of coronaviruses in the environment, this is only likely for a short period of time after contamination. The BfR is not yet aware of any infections with SARS-CoV-2 via this transmission path.

Basically, coronaviruses can get to surfaces through direct sneezing or coughing by an infected person and survive for a period of time. A smear infection of another person appears possible if the virus is transmitted shortly afterwards via the hands to the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat or the eyes.

The stability of coronaviruses in the environment depends on many factors such as temperature, humidity and the nature of the surface as well as the specific virus strain and the amount of virus. In general, human coronaviruses are not particularly stable on dry surfaces. As a rule, inactivation takes place in the dry state within hours to a few days.

For the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, first laboratory tests by an American working group show that, after severe contamination, it can be aerosolized for up to 3 hours, up to 4 hours on copper surfaces, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on stainless steel and plastic can remain infectious. The stability mentioned in the study was determined in the laboratory under optimal conditions (e.g. controlled humidity, temperature, etc.) and with high virus concentrations. In practice, it is to be expected that the stability is lower due to additional factors such as light, temperature fluctuations and lower levels of contamination.

Although the virus is unlikely to be transmitted through contaminated products, general rules of everyday hygiene such as washing your hands regularly and keeping your hands away from your face should be observed when handling them.

Information from the world association IFLA, as of April 1st, 2020

The world association IFLA has set up a special website where many other questions are addressed. It says, for example, about the handling of materials:

"A key question for many in the library space is the risk of infection from contact with materials that carry the coronavirus. It is clear that our understanding of every aspect of the spread of the virus is still at an early stage so it is not possible to be definitive To give advice, apart from the general recommendations to keep hands clean and not to touch the face.

There are some new research results (e.g. in New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Hospital Infection) about the survival of the virus, both in the air and on different types of surfaces. It appears that it survives longer on plastic and steel and less on cardboard or copper, although these tests were done under laboratory conditions and the risk of infection decreases over time. Evidence remains limited about the latest coronavirus strain, and it appears that normal cleaning processes make a big difference. At the same time, the general recommendation is to exercise caution - a point that has also been taken up by the French government, for example.

We recognize that some libraries have introduced a waiting period to deal with returned books, while others have made it clear that no one should return books until things return to normal. Outside the library area - for example at the post office - there doesn't seem to be any advice on handling paper or cardboard. It is more likely, however, that other surfaces - such as door handles, keyboards, mice, toys, CDs and DVDs or VR headsets - could carry the virus and should therefore be cleaned regularly. For this reason, the English health authority Public Health England has proposed that the risk for cardboard after 24 hours and for plastic after 72 hours can be classified as negligible.

Where materials could be harmed by the use of alcoholic gels or cleaning materials, basic hygiene measures should be taken, such as washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, avoiding touching the face, and staying away if symptoms of COVID-19 are displayed. As the American Library of Congress points out, time itself is a good disinfectant. "


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Guide of the "COVID-19 Guidance Cell of the National Infection Service of Public Health England", as of: 27.03.2020

Libraries all over the world are concerned with some questions, such as how to deal with returned media. For example, England has published the following guidelines from the “COVID-19 Guidance Cell of the National Infection Service of Public Health England”, which was communicated to the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on March 27, 2020. It says:

  • The risk of books with a plastic sleeve touched by a person who is a possible COVID-19 case is negligible after 72 hours.
  • The risk of books with a cardboard / paper cover is negligible after 24 hours.


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Notes of the St. Michaelsbund

The St. Michaelsbund has put together useful tips for disinfecting books. You can find the leaflet here.