Burnaby library books being burned, frozen
Books are being burned in Burnaby, much to the chagrin of Burnaby Public Library officials.
But the material isn't being singed due to any racy or controversial content. Rather, they're being nuked in the microwave out of fear bedbugs might hitch a ride to a library patron's home.
It's just one of the residual effects of the discovery of bedbugs in books at the Metrotown branch back in September.
Since then, the library has completed inspections of all four branches using bedbug-sniffing dogs.
The number of hits detected by the dogs at the two branches most recently inspected, Tommy Douglas and McGill, were "significantly less" than that found at Metrotown and Cameron, said Burnaby's chief librarian Edel Toner-Rogala.
"It's not even considered a light infestation," she said, noting there was never an infestation at any of the branches.
In all cases, books in areas where the dogs detected live bedbugs or viable eggs, were removed from shelves and heat-treated to kill off the pest. Shelving and furniture were treated with steam. Once the treated books were returned to the branches, they were all re-inspected with the dogs detecting nothing.
"We're relatively bug-free," she said. "We can't say we're 100 per cent certainly, because we're open to the public."
There were very few hits in library furniture (only a few at Metrotown and none at other branches) which indicates its cleaning staff is doing a good job, Toner-Rogala said.
The library has just completed a bedbug management plan that will include education and training for staff, preventive measures, more intensive cleaning, monitoring of areas such as book drops (using methods such as glue boards to catch bedbugs), and periodic sniffer-dog inspections.
But now that the bedbug issue is under control, library staff are finding instances of patrons trying to take the matter into their own hands.
There have been numerous cases of books being returned with burn marks. That's an indication people are cooking them in the microwave, something library staff don't recommend.
The security tags in the books contain metal, noted Toner-Rogala. "When you put metal into a microwave it does explode, and books do burn."
Others have tried to bake books in their ovens. Apart from the obvious risk of starting a fire, she noted that the core of the books don't get hot enough evenly enough to kill bedbugs.
Then there are those who have taken unreliable information from the Internet to heart by trying to freeze books. Similar to oven treatment, freezers don't get the books cold enough in the core so all that might happen is the bedbugs are put to sleep, only to awaken when they warm up again. Freezing also makes books damp which puts them at risk of mould.
In all cases, library patrons did not find bedbugs in their books but were simply trying to be extra cautious, said Toner-Rogala. She reminded people if they have any concerns about library books to seal them in a plastic bag and return them to a library staff person, not in the book drop.
What has been even more challenging is the reaction of some in the community.
One library staffer went home to find a notice in her building's lobby telling all the residents to not go to the library. A teacher called a library branch to confirm her class would be attending a scheduled field trip there but that a lot of kids would not be coming—their parents wouldn't allow it due to the bedbug issue.
"It's been heartbreaking," she said.
Library staff have also been affected by the bedbug scare personally.
One library employee was uninvited to a party. Still another said, perhaps only half-jokingly, that the week after the first bedbug discovery she was almost served with divorce papers.
"Every half hour I was ripping the sheets back to check for bedbugs," she said sheepishly.
"Now I'm down to only once a night."