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Scientists Find Virus Still Detectable After Six Days on Four Common Library Materials When Stacked

September 3, 2020 | In the Press

From IMLS.gov (https://www.imls.gov/news/scientists-find-virus-still-detectable-after-six-days-four-common-library-materials-when)

Scientists have found that the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 is still detectable after six days on four common library materials when they are stacked, which is a significantly longer attenuation period than had been detected on similar materials when they were not stacked.

The findings are part of the REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project designed to generate scientific information to support the handling of core library, museum, and archival materials as these institutions begin to resume operations and reopen to the public. Scientists at Battelle have now completed four separate tests on groups of commonly found and frequently handled materials in these institutions.

In the most recent test, scientists tested four materials similar to those in the first test group—the cover of hardcover books (buckram cloth), the cover of softback books, a DVD case, and mylar protective book cover jackets—only this time, the materials were stacked to simulate common storage configurations in libraries and archives. While the virus was not detectable on the materials laid flat after three days in the first test, the virus was still detectable on similar materials after six days when the materials were stacked. (See Test 4 results.)

"The REALM project continues to produce results about the coronavirus and how it interacts with library and museum materials,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “This fourth set of research findings will help librarians and museum professionals continue to offer services and begin to welcome patrons back to public spaces. This ongoing research helps provide an up-to-date and fuller understanding of the virus so that libraries and museums can develop and implement protocols with care in service to their communities."

“There is still a great deal that we don’t know about the coronavirus and its spread,” said Skip Prichard, OCLC President and CEO. “Our goal is to add to this knowledge in ways that help libraries, archives and museums plan with greater confidence as they re-open and put in place processes to better protect their users and their staffs.”

“The findings in this latest test strengthen the need for the continued coronavirus research we are conducting,” said Will Richter, Principal Research Scientist at Battelle and a leader of the research being done for the REALM project. “We have to approach each situation with an open mind and determine next steps based on the data generated.”

The REALM project is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal funding for museums and libraries; and OCLC, a nonprofit library technology and research organization; in partnership with Battelle, a not-for-profit global scientific research and development organization.

Project updates are posted at oc.lc/realm-project as they become available. Those interested can also sign up through the project website to receive timely email updates when new information is released.

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