Is it time to consider what your church library will do about the coronavirus. It is becoming a real issue, and some of us are in the most vulnerable population (60+). Let's not forget how germ-laden books can be. 
At our church we are considering the following procedure. We know the medical community is learning new things every day, so this approach may already be obsolete. Here it is:
We are calling our "safe" time  frame a week. As we all learn more, you might need to amend the "safe" time. 
1) Start by using the common-sense sanitizing procedures that have been widely recommended: wash your hands frequently; wipe down your computer keyboards, scanners, screens, desks, etc.; cover coughs and sneezes.  
2) The vast majority of the books on our shelves have not been checked out in the last  week. We can consider them as "safe."  We can touch, check out and read these materials without concern. 
We need, instead, to focus on the problems of our "returned books," those items that we have no certainty of where they have been, which page has been sneezed on, etc. 
This procedure is simply a method to avoid touching any item that's been returned until it has been untouched for a "safe" period of time.   
3)  Have patrons return their materials to a single collection point for all of today's returns (a separate box marked with the date.)  The staff does not touch any of the returned items yet.  
4) At the end of the day, wearing rubber gloves, we check IN all the items in the box, and return them to the same box. The box is marked with today's date. The box is then set aside for a week-long quarantine.     
5) Each day's returns are treated similarly and stored in a separate, dated box. 
6) Nobody touches any of the "quarantined" books for any reason, until the quarantine period (one week) for that box is over.  
7) After a box's quarantine period is reached, the books may be safely shelved and checked out again. The box itself can be reused and re-dated.
8) No cheating!  The most popular books, most certainly, the one you want to read yourself, will be in one of the quarantine boxes. You may be putting others at risk and are surely at risk yourself if you sneak an early check OUT. 
That's our plan. How would you improve on this?

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 Not  to be too flippant, but it might be a good time to promote your ebooks:
    Our ebooks are 100% coronavirus-free!
     Perfect quarantine reading: ebooks

Totally agree.  I want to be fair - I watch this site but usually remain silent, but now it is important to "be in the know".    I work with OverDrive the leading ebook/audio book publisher.  We are working with publishers to get special pricing on digital materials to help all libraries with the concern of the coronavirus.  Currently, certain publishers are offering discounts and free titles during this Pandemic. If you want more info, feel free to contact me at

I apologize for this sales pitch, but just want everyone to know you have options.

Thanks, Tom.  That's great news!  I'll contact you.

Thank you, Glenn, for a great post here! Lots to consider!! I am working with our Enrichment Center team to close our library this Sunday so that we can put together our procedures. Fortunately, this next week is Spring Break so there will be no Wednesday activities. Thanks for your input here!

Might want to add one more thing. I am going to post these on the shelves. 

Safe Library Browsing Practices for COVID-19

Help us keep the library safe by following these two simple steps.


  • DO NOT RESHELVE any item that you have touched. Place item in the book return in Main Library ONLY.


  • DO NOT REMOVE anything from the book drop.

Good thoughts, Debbie. I had not considered the books on shelves that are "safe" until someone touches them. Even a brief "maybe I'll read this later" book should go through the full quarantine time. I'm not sure how easy that will be to enforce.

The more difficult "enforcement" will be keeping our users (and ourselves) out of the book drop where our books start their quarantine time

[For the record, I am no authority on health issues. Further fact, my church (Wedgwood Baptist, Fort Worth TX) just closed in response to a all-city directive. (We are providing a streamed service.)  Our church library will be in full "quarantine" mode anyway.] 

We plan to wipe down all of our books with sanitizing wipes when "coming and going."  We will wipe down the carts they are placed on for re-shelving, as well as the scanners, keyboards, and mice.  We do not have high volume, so this will be a "do-able" job.

However, our church will not be holding services for the next month, until April 13, at the request of our governor to cancel all gatherings involving more than 250 people.  Once services and activities resume. I feel like we should continue the sanitizing project for at least another week, in case any books have remaining virus germs on them.

This would be a good practice to follow every flu season and if we hear of any type of viral outbreak in the weekday preschool area, as we serve these students and families as well.

Blessings to all for a healthy spring!

Cathy Smith

Broadmoor Baptist Church

Shreveport, LA

Great idea.  Our year-round procedure has been to wipe down items with Lysol wipes as the items are returned and before they are placed in circulation (re-shelved, put on hold, etc.).  Any item in question (being returned by someone we know or who says they have been sick, etc.) has been placed out of circulation. Because the number of items that fit in that category has been low and infrequent, our "safe" box is small.  A couple of questions:

1. What type boxes are best?  Cardboard boxes with or without lids?  Plastic boxes?  We currently use plastic.

2. For those of us on a system such as Atriuum: How do you distinguish items that have been checked in and scanned but are in quarantine from those that are on the shelves and available?  We need to scan the items as checked in each day to keep the patrons' accounts up to date.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share this information with all of us!




You have a great cleaning discipline already! Congratulations! In answer to your questions: 

1. I think both plastic and cardboard boxes should work fine. Plastic seems cleaner though, doesn't it. Lids might help remove the temptation to get a book "early."

2. To keep records straight, Anne suggested checking IN the returned books normally, then immediately checking them OUT to a patron named "QUARANTINE." Now they go  back into the "quarantine box." (At the end of the quarantine period, check them IN before shelving, of course.) 

This is a way you will always know where the books are, and it should do wonders for your circulation statistics. 

Thanks, Glenn.  In reading some studies on Google Scholar, some say the virus lives for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastic.  Who would have thought!  I'll keep checking, and if anyone finds something about this topic,, would you post, please?  I haven't seen anything about it on CDC's site as yet.



It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose

If necessary we could only be open in Sunday morning. This would allow the collection to clear up for 7 days. We would still have to quarantine returned and handled items because we don't know when they were actually returned.

Debbie M
Hawkins, TX



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