In August 2012, a patron at the Wichita Public Library was bitten by a bedbug. A flurry of activity followed: the library called pest control, delved into chemical remediation, and endured a media storm. Since then, bedbugs have been discovered at several public libraries. The experiences of the Wichita Public Library and Collection Development Manager Sarah Kittrell have guided panicked branch managers and department heads ever since. There is one simple fact that libraries need to know about bedbugs: not only can they turn up anywhere, but increasingly, they do. The discoveries of bedbugs in public libraries are becoming routine, if unwelcome, events. How that discovery goes for your library is entirely a matter of preparation, training, and levelheadedness.
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Bedbugs in public libraries are extraordinarily common. You may even have personal experience with them and not know it. According to entomologist Kenneth Haynes of the University of Kentucky, 30% of people don’t react to bed bug bites. That means that people are tracking bedbugs with them into schools, onto buses and trains, and—yes—into public libraries, all unawares.
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Since people don’t necessarily know if they have bedbugs, they may not know to treat their stuff. This is how patrons track bedbugs into libraries, where they establish a toehold by feeding on people who enjoy soft chairs and other plushy furniture. Bedbugs like itty-bitty spaces, so they can end up in book spines, too. It doesn’t take a lot for bedbugs to thrive in a library. Even if they only encounter a few people a day, they’ll make it work. They’ve even been known to live happily in cinemas.
Library bedbug cases can blossom from there without the involvement of a patron. Interlibrary loan can constitute a vector for bedbug transmission. One pregnant female bed bug can generate a population of over 700,000 of the little pests within six months. Returning an infected book in an overnight drop can be disastrous.
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It should come as no surprise that bedbugs also drive patrons away from libraries. Cautionary measures seem to help calm patron fears, but in a big system like Cincinnati, New York City, or San Francisco, bedbug contact is only a matter of time. In 2012, Cincinnati’s 41 libraries owned 48 PackTite decontamination bags, which exist just to destroy bedbug stowaways. Other libraries visually check every book as it comes in.
A visual inspection of a book can be very revealing. In keeping with the recommendations of Sarah Kittrell, libraries nationwide now train staff to notice bedbug sign. This includes fecal stains on the edges and pages, squashed bugs inside the book, and live insects in the spine and dust jacket.
There have been cases where bedbugs fall directly out of a returned book and onto the library’s circulation desk. This, in some ways, is ideal. The returning patron can be confronted in situ with live or recently-live evidence of their guilt. We’ll talk more about bedbug policy, and what happens to that patron after discovery, a little later.
Link to the rest at BookRiot
PG suggests this may be another good reason for reading ebooks, including ebooks you can borrow from your library.
It also occurred to him that bookstores selling used books may be another bedbug haven.