January 28, 2020
The library has always been a great place for the public to come in and find a good book, a new adventure, connect with others, and broaden their horizons. But with so many items coming and going, there’s almost no control as to what happens to books and documents and movies that get checked out. That being said, when items are returned, there’s almost no telling where they’ve been or what they’re bringing back with them.
One external item that comes back into the library along with returned items that most libraries don’t prepare for are pests, such as bedbugs. The discoveries of bedbugs finding their way inside public libraries are actually becoming more and more routine, especially as a community’s homeless population uses a library as a place to escape the heat or cold.
So, how can a library prevent bedbugs from entering through its doors or take care of them if they’re already there?
A visual inspection should be the first step in hunting down these pests. Libraries can take care of this by inspecting the inside of books to look for them and train their staff to notice any signs of bedbugs. This could include fecal stains on books’ edges, squashed bugs inside the books, and insects on the spine or in the jacket.
But the thin confines of book pages aren’t the only places where bedbugs can be found nesting. In fact, bedbugs like to stay warm and comfortable like us humans, so inspecting tables, chairs, couches, and desks should be another step in hunting them down. Every fold and crevice in a couch should be inspected and stuffed animals should be discouraged from being brought in. Libraries can even use UV light to identify live bedbugs or their waste.
Furniture that is discovered to have bedbugs should be isolated and taken care of by a pest professional. In fact, in most cases, the furniture will need to be tossed out and the building will need to be treated.
Like any pest infestation or outbreak, bedbugs should be handled with care by professionals who know how to eradicate them. After identifying bedbug activity, library leaders should collect all items that have bedbugs in or on them and quarantine them from the library. If it’s just a few books or movies, they can be heat treated on the spot and put back on the shelf.
If a book with a bedbug issue was found in a book drop, however, library administration should track down every book returned that day.
Next, libraries can choose from options like fumigation, heat, and cold for books with bedbugs in them. Heat might age books, so this option should be taken lightly. Fumigation is an effective choice, but the chemicals used now can cause some harm to the integrity of the books.
The cost to take care of bedbugs might come out to a sizable amount, especially if the outbreak is widespread. However, nothing outweighs the cost of having to go through a legal battle with a patron or multiple patrons affected by a bedbug outbreak. Someone may be bitten by a bedbug and choose to sue the library. To combat the effect of this course of action, a library should invest in library insurance, which can help to cover legal costs if this is the way things go.
The important thing for libraries to do is to take care of this issue as soon as it’s discovered to limit exposure to the public as well as doing what needs to be done to stay away from major legal problems. This will not only help to keep the public safe but the library safe from reputational and possibly legal harm.
About Regan Agency
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