Research Shows Virus Undetectable on Five Highly Circulated Library Materials After Three Days

In the first phase of a project to disseminate and develop science-based information about how materials can be handled to mitigate exposure to staff and visitors, scientists have found that the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 is not detectable on five common library materials after three days.

The findings are part of the REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Project designed to generate scientific information to support the handling of core museum, library, and archival materials as these institutions begin to resume operations and reopen to the public. The first phase of the research is focusing on commonly found and frequently handled materials, especially in U.S. public libraries.

Over the past few weeks, scientists at Battelle tested the virus on a variety of surfaces, in environments with standard temperature and relative humidity conditions typically found in air-conditioned office space. Materials tested in phase one included the cover of hardcover books (buckram cloth), the cover of softback books, plain paper pages inside a closed book, mylar protective book cover jackets, and plastic DVD cases. Battelle tests found the virus undetectable after one day on the covers of hardback and softback books as well as the DVD case. The virus was undetectable on the paper inside of a book and mylar book jackets after three days. “It’s below the limit of detection on our viability assay,” said Battelle Principal Research Scientist Will Richter.

Lab testing of physical items followed literature reviews conducted by Battelle to help define the scope of the project’s research and the information needs of libraries, archives, and museums. Last week, the REALM Project released “Systematic Literature Review of SARS-CoV-2: Spread, Environmental Attenuation, Prevention, and Decontamination,” prepared by Battelle. This is an in-depth review of published literature on virus transmission, attenuation, and decontamination methods that can inform discussion and decisions about operations in archives, libraries, and museums.

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