You’re stuck at home all day, and you’d love a good book or movie to pass the time. You’re spring cleaning, and you want to get that stack of library books out of the way. But the libraries and their book drops are closed.
Why has Botetourt County Libraries decided not to loan or accept returns of physical materials at this time? Isn’t there some way – like curbside pickup services or limited access – to get books and movies to people who are socially isolating?
Throughout the past several weeks, we’ve had to make many decisions quickly in response to new information that sometimes changed by the hour and was often incomplete or uncertain. Because we care about you and our staff, we choose to err on the side of safety in every decision we make.
Scientists are studying how long coronavirus survives on different surfaces, how easy it is to transmit on that surface, and how – or if – certain materials can be handled safely. The evidence is inconclusive. Early studies suggest that paper may be safer to handle than many other surfaces, but it depends on the type of paper and the availability of ideal lab conditions – and a 24-hour quarantine is still recommended.
Books are paper, right? So why aren’t we loaning them? We wish it were that simple. Even our paper-based collections have varied covers and different types of paper, and all materials are processed with labels, tape or other surfaces that make them findable and help them last longer through hundreds of users. Then there are DVDs and audiobook CDs with their hard plastic cases. There’s no guarantee that protective measures such as gloves, masks, quarantine and disinfectant would render materials handling safe enough, particularly by people in at-risk categories.
Loaning digital materials only was a difficult decision. We realize that not everyone in our community has access to Internet or devices to use digital resources, and we hate to leave anyone out. While access to education and recreation are very important, they’re not essential to our survival in the same way that food and healthcare are. By circulating physical materials, we could be putting people we care about at risk for severe illness and even death.
Some libraries are offering adapted physical services; it’s a decision that each library makes based on their community’s needs and environment. We’re carefully monitoring Botetourt’s situation and tracking emerging scientific data on a constant basis, and we eagerly await results from an upcoming scientific study on the virus’ behavior on actual library materials. The minute we feel confident that we can loan and/or receive materials while keeping our librarians and patrons safe, we’re ready to spring into action.
We miss you, and we care about you too much to risk your life and health. Until we can loan physical materials again, we encourage anyone who has Internet access to try our digital collection. Call us at 540-928-2900 for help getting set up or let us know how you’re doing. Stay in touch!