A blog from the Ontario Library Service

Resources to follow on the scientific understanding of SARS-CoV-2

As public libraries across Ontario begin to reopen, procedures are being put into place to minimize risks to staff and patrons. A big part of the reopening plans is implementing a safe way to accept library materials returned by patrons and bring them back into circulation.

Throughout Ontario, many libraries are quarantining returned materials for an average of 72 hours (3 days). The establishment of this quarantine period of 72 hours is based on a scientific study of the survivability of the SARS-Cov-2 virus (which causes COVID-19) on surfaces, and has been widely used as the acceptable time period in library literature.

With any novel infectious disease, scientific understanding will change over time as more experiments take place and new conclusions are drawn.  Library-specific materials are being tested in experiments under the REALM project, a collaboration between the OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle. Over the course of several months, the tests conducted by REALM provide further consideration for quarantine periods of materials.  For instance, Test 4 Results highlight that the virus is still detectable on after 6 days when quarantine items are stacked, whereas Test 1 Results showed that  the virus is not detectable after 3 days on items that are unstacked.

As the evidence of how the virus is spread continues to be refined and understood, projects such as REALM offer important resources for decision-making on health and safety procedures. We encourage you to continue checking the REALM website, in addition to Ontario government updates.

Further Reading:

          This table is for quick reference purposes. Please visit the links to the Tests for complete results.

REALM Test Materials Tested Results (Quoted from the REALM website)
Test 1 1.   Hardback book cover (buckram cloth)

2.   Softback book cover

3.   Plain paper pages inside a closed book

4.   Plastic book covering (biaxially oriented polyester film)

5.   DVD case

“Results show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the materials after three days of quarantine.” (not stacked)
Test 2 1.   Braille paper pages

2.   Glossy paper pages from a coffee table books

3.   Magazine pages

4.   Children’s board book

5.   Archival folders

“The evaluation demonstrates that standard office temperature (68°F to 75°F) and relative humidity conditions (30 to 50 percent) provide an environment that allows for the natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 present on these materials after two days of quarantine for archival folders and four days of quarantine for the book pages.”
Test 3 1.    Talking book, USB cassette

2.    DVD

3.    Storage bag (flexible plastic)

4.    Storage container (rigid plastic)

5.    Plexiglass

“Results show that after five days of quarantine in an unstacked configuration, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detected on the storage bag (flexible plastic) or the DVD. The storage container (rigid plastic), plexiglass, and the USB cassette all showed detectable virus at five days. Day five was the final timepoint tested.”
Test 4 1.    Hardback book cover

2.    Softcover book cover

3.    Plastic protective cover

4.    DVD case

5.    Expanded polyethylene foam

“Results show that after six days of quarantine the SARS-CoV-2 virus was still detected on all five materials tested. When compared to Test 1, which resulted in nondetectable virus after three days on an unstacked hardcover book, softcover book, plastic protective cover, and DVD case, the results of Test 4 highlight the effect of stacking and its ability to prolong the survivability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”