Battelle to test library materials for coronavirus lifespan

By Dean Narciso - The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

The Columbus Metropolitan Library on Thursday delivered copies of books, music, magazines and newspapers to Battelle Memorial Institute, which will test them for COVID-19.

The project involves the nonprofit Battelle research laboratory in Columbus applying strains of the COVID-19 virus on 25 different library items to assess the virus’ longevity, the library said in a news release.

Battelle declined to provide details about the project when contacted Thursday by The Dispatch.

“We’re excited to take on this challenge and looking forward to this unique scientific project,” said Battelle spokesman T.R. Massey. “When we start the lab work, we’ll be sharing the results with our partners in this project. We’re working fast on this one, just like we did with our Critical Care Decontamination Systems.”

Battelle also has begun disinfecting N-95 face masks at its West Jefferson facility.

“Handling this sort of thing is something that we’re doing at our bio-safety laboratory already.”

The project is a partnership driven by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) in Dublin, Ohio which will be releasing the results to its worldwide network of member libraries.

The goal is to devise best practices for the safe handling of materials and eventually determine how and when public libraries will begin to re-open.

The materials include plastic cases, children’s books, graphic novels with textured or cloth fabric, photographs and microfiche, all of which the public had access to before the coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of the library system on March 20. Other public libraries are also closed.

In a news release, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which supports the nation’s museums and libraries, stated: “As the national emergency has intensified, so has the concern over the handling of paper- and plastic-based, circulating, and the other types of collections and interactive exhibits managed by libraries, museums, and related organizations.”

Columbus Metropolitan Library’s 23 branches could begin a phased-in opening as early as mid-May, said library spokesman Ben Zenitsky. That could include having “backroom” staff returni to process the backlog of returned materlas followed by possible curbside pickup by the public of library materials. More than 70% of the library’s 846 staff was furloughed earlier this month.

Library trustees briefly discussed the re-opening plans at a board meeting Thursday.

“We are so fortunate in central Ohio to be surrounded by such forward-thinking industry leaders at Battelle and OCLC,” said Columbus Metropolitan Library CEO Patrick Losinski. “The work we do here will have far-reaching implications for public libraries around the state, country and even the world.”

By Dean Narciso

The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

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