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Don’t worry too much about library book germs

31 December 2015

From Chris Meadows on TeleRead:

When you go to the library for a book to read, I’ll bet the notion that it might carry germs never even crosses your mind. But the truth is, any object that people touch picks up germs—especially objects that lots of people touch. That’s why supermarkets these days have sanitary wipe dispensers with the shopping carts. And the thing about library books—especially popular library books—is that they end up getting touched by lots of people.

That’s what a post on Mental Floss points out, looking at the history of research into “library book grossness.” It includes mention of experiments in which guinea pigs were injected with a solution extracted from the pages of dirty library books, and promptly ended up dying of tuberculosis, strep infections, and other nasty diseases.

The bright side is, you’d effectively have to have a scientist extract the germs and inject them into you for there to be any actual risk of infection from an unsanitary library book. The Wall Street Journal notes that germs need a “critical mass” to infect people, and there just aren’t enough of them on the average book to do the trick. However, some libraries have had issues with bedbugs. A pesticide specialist recommends that if your library has had an infestation, you could carry your books home in a cloth bag and run them through the dryer for 30 minutes to kill any resident bugs. (But I can’t imagine that being tumbled around in a dryer for 30 minutes would be very good for the books, either!)

Link to the rest at TeleRead


16 Comments to “Don’t worry too much about library book germs”

  1. What about the library’s public access computer keyboards? Would Sheldon Cooper touch one?

  2. Apparently, there have been outbreaks of bedbugs in some libraries in our area, but according to rumor (which is, you know, rumor), it was focused on the seating in a few branches where the homeless often spend their days. I can’t imagine bedbugs being happy inside a book for long, but now I’m completely grossed out imagining it.

    • I can’t imagine bedbugs being happy inside a book for long…

      Just because you might not be grossed out enough, the pub I lived over in London had a bedbug infestation, and the exterminator said they can live dormant without a host for years. I hope he was exaggerating.

      • Oh my gosh. I am now in danger of being that person that brings a box of trash bags with them and covers all public surfaces before touching them. Thanks for that…;)

      • I think he was. I’ve read a few online sources that say its only (!) one year. And the advice for thrift store clothing is put them immediately in plastic bags, before putting them in your car, and then immediately in the dryer on high.

        I’ve also read diatomaceous earth kills them, eventually.

  3. ALWAYS crosses my mind.

  4. You’re probably not going to die from handling the books, but I’m a librarian, and I can tell you that you DO NOT WANT to sit in any of the soft chairs…assuming the library is stupid enough to have any. Even the hard chairs are extremely iffy. And always wear shoes. You don’t want to know what happens to the floors on a regular basis. And the bathrooms? Shudder.

  5. I hate getting library books with boogers in them. I mean, what is wrong with some people?

  6. its not just library books, it could be any used book, for mold spores esp if it comes from a damp climate. Sometimes I’ve noticed in some new picture books, the ink smells like c. Have no idea why.

    • Well, hopefully the library copy of Preston’s The Demon in the Freezer doesn’t have any traces of smallpox.

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