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Sanitizing machine slashes quarantine wait at library

The wait for books on hold just got shorter at the Monroe County District Library in Woodsfield. The library’s circulating materials no longer have to go through a lengthy COVID-19 quarantine between checkouts.

Through Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, the library purchased a book-sanitizing machine. The oven-sized device uses ultraviolet light to kill the coronavirus on books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. Every item that the library owns is sanitized after it is checked out and returned.

“Having the (sanitizing) machine, we feel that it’s been a great asset,” said Library Manager Kathy South. “(We’re) able to move our materials along quicker into our patrons’ hands, so they don’t have to wait so long.”

COVID-19 had substantially slowed down the library’s request process. Sanitizing sprays would damage many of the library’s items. When something was checked out and returned, the staff had to quarantine it for three days or longer before returning to the shelves or passing along to a new patron.

“People were waiting on our best-sellers or newer movies (that) we had to quarantine for three or four days,” said South. “If you get four or five people waiting on the same book, it’d be an old title by the time they got it.”

With the new machine, staff can place six to 10 items inside the unit at a time. Books and magazines are draped across wire racks, while opened CD and DVD cases stand on the unit floor. A 30-second treatment is enough to disinfect most items.

South noted that Interlibrary Loan materials still go through a multi-day quarantine when they come into the building. However, patrons’ loan period does not start until they come in and check out their requested items.

The book-sanitizing machine arrived the week of Dec. 7, added one more layer of library patron protection against the coronavirus.

The library custodian does regular disinfecting wipe-downs on the computers and tables throughout the building and the main access door toward the large parking lot. The library has also installed a plexiglass shield at the circulation desk,

several hand sanitizer stations and hands-free faucets in the restrooms.

“We’re trying to keep the library a safe place,” South concluded, “for people to come in and check out things and not be afraid to take things home with them.”