New rules about keeping books returned to the library in quarantine because of COVID-19 meant the Milford Public Library had tables of books waiting for their 72 hours to be up.
Now those books can be processed in minutes, thanks to a new Steri-Book sanitizing machine that uses ultraviolet light.
Librarian Kay Hudson and her staff had spent hours during the pandemic stacking and storing books for the 72 hours required under Governor John Carney’s state of emergency.
“The method we have used during the pandemic is to use almost every surface we can in the conference rooms with piles of books and labels that tell us when they can be returned to circulation,” Hudson said. “This has been very time consuming and tedious.”
Right after pandemic started, she got an email about the sterilization machine which had been used in other countries since 2009, but had never been released in the United States.
“I knew instantly that we needed to have one of these machines,” she said.
Even before the pandemic, Hudson said, items were returned to the library that needed deep cleaning and she had always wanted a way to more easily do that so they could be placed in circulation quicker.
When she reached out to the company that sent the email, they told her there were only 10 units available.
She talked to the Board, and they were interested, but wondered if they could get a discount by buying more than one.
“They suggested I reach out to other libraries to see if we could all go together to buy them in bulk, but none of them were interested,” she said.
When she contacted the company the morning of the library board’s meeting and was told they had only one machine left.
“The board meeting was at 11 and I begged them to give me until 2 p.m.,” Hudson said.
The Board approved the $6,600 purchase.
“I was on the phone immediately, getting the Milford Library the very last one available,” Hudson said.
The machine arrived July 6.
The book sterilizer takes up to six books and in 60 seconds can sterilize all the pages and cover using ultraviolet light. It can also sterilize DVDs, electronics, plastic and other materials as well.
It works by fanning the pages of the book as it directs the ultraviolet light at the pages, killing any viruses or bacteria that may be there.
“This will be a huge benefit to our patrons,” Hudson said. “They will know that when they get a book from the Milford Library, it is clean.”
The library offers curbside pickup for book orders.
“We have had people who have called in about books who are concerned about where that book has been,” Hudson said. “Now, we can tell them any book, even those who come to us from other libraries, has been sterilized and is safe for them to read.”
Library staff worked in shifts, so that if one employee should be exposed to the virus the entire staff would not be, while sterilizing the backlog of items.
Now they will use the machine daily to treat all books and other items returned to the library or delivered through inter-library loan.
Hudson said she intends to use the sterilizer even after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended in order to continue protecting people from any viruses or bacteria on loaned items.