• Alysa Salzberg

Library’s warning about not microwaving books raises a lot of questions

Last week, a Michigan Library warned its patrons not to microwave library books. The story understandably created some buzz.


For one thing, some of us wondered why anyone would do that in the first place? It turns out that this is a DIY way to kill COVID-19 germs…with some dangerous side effects.


The patches used to scan library books contain metal. This means microwaving them can burn all or part of the book, not to mention possibly set your microwave and even house on fire.


Some people might say that all of this is worth the risk if they’re protected from COVID-19. But librarian Elizabeth Guarino-Kozlowicz explains that she and her colleagues across the country (and, I can personally say, around the world) use germ-killing strategies that don’t pose a threat to people or books. Their main technique is to let the germs that might be on the book simply die from exposure to air. Her library “quarantines” returned books for 72 hours before making them available again.


Quarantining books seems to be the best solution, since books can be damaged by liquid-based cleaners, and UV exposure isn’t likely to effectively reach every part of every page.


Although studies show that coronavirus does disappear from surfaces after a certain amount of time, what if you’re still concerned about checking materials out from the library, but don’t have the budget to purchase them?


One alternative is to ask your library if they provide access to digital books and periodicals that can be read on a personal tablet, computer, or mobile device. This is also a good solution for at-risk people who prefer to self-isolate; downloading material is done remotely, allowing you to stay safely at home, but still have new reading material to enjoy, learn, and escape with.


Read on to learn more about sanitizing books in the era of COVID-19.


Photos of a microwaved library book, from the Kent District Library’s Facebook page

Image source




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