StaffGuide: Preservation

Preservation information and resources



The Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Information Hub provides research from several groups to produce science-based information about how materials can be handled to mitigate COVID-19 exposure

October 2020:

The Arkansas State Library recommends Best Practices for Handling and Disinfecting Library Materials:

  • Recent research indicates an overnight quarantine period of materials combined with frequent hand washing by library workers is likely sufficient to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 via library material
  • Evidence is mounting that COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person and less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces

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Recommendations for Libraries: COVID-19 and Material Handling
Prepared by University Libraries Preservation Unit on May 7, 2020

Short synopsis
All information presented here was extracted from the primary resources listed below and at time of writing was considered best practices. Viruses can survive on surfaces and be airborne but the length and potential for further exposure varies due to the type of material. It is better to quarantine library materials as opposed to disinfecting them due to the material composition of the items. Staff should wear gloves while handling material being moved to the designated quarantine spaces and only while handling incoming items. After removing gloves, wash hands for 20 seconds. Items that have been quarantined for the recommended time and need to be re-shelved can be handled without gloves.

Porous surfaces (cardboard, paper, textiles, etc.): Viruses are less likely to be transmitted over multiple contacts and the recommended quarantine time is 24 hours.
Non-porous surfaces (plastics, vinyl, sealed or coated textiles, countertops, keyboards, etc.): Viruses are more likely to be transmitted via multiple contact and the recommended quarantine time is 72 hours.
Non-porous surfaces of constant/frequent use (counters, desks, doorknobs, computers and equipment) should be disinfected with CDC-approved chemicals routinely. Surfaces should be allowed to dry fully before placing anything porous on them.

The 14-day quarantine recommendation is unnecessary for paper-based items especially for items that arrive via US mail or other delivery services. The postal service providers are already being conscientious and taking handling safety precautions and the amount of time that items spend in these systems typically meet the 72-hour recommendation. Gloves can be used to handle these materials.


Primary Information Resources
NEDCC Disinfecting Books and Other Collections (3/26/2020)

AIC Collections Care Amid COVID-19 roundup

ICON Guidance

Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative

ALA Handling Library Materials and Collections During a Pandemic