The saying, "Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite", is more than 100 years old. The concern about bookbugs (bedbugs residing in library books and furnishings, and being spread by library books and patrons) is more modern, but not brand new.
For example, Catherine St. Louis addressed the issue in the December 5, 2012 New York Times' article: "A Dark and Itchy Night". The following day, Candy Sagon reacted in the AARP article, "Are There Bedbugs in Your Library Books?":
Well, here’s another reason to buy e-books – evidently libraries are struggling to deal with the problem of bedbugs hiding out in their books and then being spread to patrons’ homes, especially when they read in bed at night.
The New York Times reports that bedbugs and their eggs can hide in the spines of hardcover books. “The bugs crawl out at night to feed, find a new home in a headboard, and soon readers are enjoying not only plot twists but post-bite welts,” the newspaper reports.
Libraries across the country are scrambling to deal with the problem – plus how to delicately tell a patron that he or she is bringing back books infested with the tiny critters.
Fast forward to this week. In Friday's MobileRead Forums, jhowell from Florida reacted to a June18, 2015 article on the subject: "Here's another reason to go with e-books instead of paper library books. From the local newspaper in my area: "Bedbugs appear in Tampa Bay libraries" | Tampa Bay Times. And teija from Vancouver responded: "Yuck!! I heard about the bedbug issue - it apparently showed up in one of our area libraries as well... but that is good food for thought. As we 'densify' so do the pests and the risks of them spreading."
All of the library systems I frequent - public and academic alike - have detected bed bugs in books and/or library furnishings. And all have reported taking measures to eliminate the problem and monitor for recurrences. (Apparently, it's a Sisyphean task.) Similar reports have been documented throughout the USA, as well as in other countries and on other continents. For example, see: So, Your Library Books Might Have Bedbugs | TIME.com or any of the numerous other results for the search phrase "bedbug in libraries": Moreover, librarians and journalists have confirmed that inter-library loans (which allow patrons to check out books at one branch of a library system or even from a reciprocal library system,and return them to any of the participating branches), the problem spreads readily from one library branch to another.
Marta Murvosh's illustrated article in Library Journal, "Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite" (July 24, 2013), offers tips for spotting, preventing, detecting, and exterminating the buggers. She also provides the following...
Bed Bug Resources:
The following resources may help libraries that seek to prevent a bed bug infestation or have had bed bugs in their buildings:
- Bed Bugs in Your Library workshop resources from the Connecticut Library Consortium
- Environmental Protection Agency’s comprehensive Bed Bug Information
- The Integrated Pest Management Working Group provides resources for the museum community for dealing with insect problems
- Michigan Department of Community Health offers Pamphlets for the public in several languages
- New York City Health Department Bed Bug Guide
- Pest World’s 2011 Bed Bugs Without Borders Survey puts bed bugs in libraries into the context with other public places
- U.S. Department of Defense’s Bed Bugs–Importance, Biology, and Control Strategies
- The bad news: Bedbugs may be in (or coming soon) soon to a library near you! They've also been found in bookstores and used books.
- The good news: Borrowing ereaders is safer than borrowing paper books - especially bestsellers. And borrowing ebooks via one's own ereader, without going to a library - is safer yet!