How unsanitary ARE library books?

My grandmother used to cringe when we’d bring them home, then reach for the handiwipes.

How right (or wrong) was she? Could a librarian or kindly Doper set me straight?

Not a librarian, but . . . I’d stay away from anything containing nudes.

According to this article, probably pretty dirty, but the less widely circulated books are significantly cleaner than the more popular ones, for obvious reasons. However, the article points out that the library door handle, as I would expect of any public door handle, is teeming with bacteria.

From the neurotically germophobic point of view, no doubt they are pretty dirty. From any reasonably rational perspective, unless you are a bubble boy, they are fine. Really, how often do you hear about epidemics spread by library books? Ever?

njtt is essentially right. Library books are gross, but harmless.

If they are actually contaminated they are tossed immediately… which happens more than I’ll describe here.

This from people who think it’s fine to swig beer and cola from a can.

Oh no, there might be an epidemic of learning!

Nah, it’ll never happen.

Well if *The Name of the Rose *can be used as an object lesson–just don’t lick your fingers to help turn pages.

As an actual public librarian, I can’t speak for the books but I’ve caught pinkeye and ringworm at the liberry. My first few years. Now I am immune to everything including evil space herpes-syphilis. (Really, I can’t remember the last time I caught a regular contagious thing; I get sinus infections from my allergies. Also I can’t really smell anything gross unless it’s very strong.)

I worked in the campus library for four years as an undergrad. Although it was in the Microforms and Periodicals Department, we still had to handle a lot of bound volumes, and our fingers were always turning black from those alone, not just the newspapers and such. In the private library the wife and I subscribe to here in Bangkok, many of the books are ancient and falling apart – I often have to implement some basic home repairs on them – and many are just plain filthy. More than a few even have blood stains on some pages!

I’ll take regular old unsanitary every day over library books that reek of cigarette smoke.

I wouldn’t eat one.

Your Granny was an unreasonable germophobe, I point and laugh at people with bottles of hand sanitiser.

A data point: in England in the 1950’s, it was standard practice to sterilise library books if they were being returned by someone with a contagious disease. (In Suffolk, anyway) It was up to you to tell the library that the books had been exposed to chicken-pox or worse.

I don’t know how they sterilised them- dry heat, perhaps?

I assume you have never had norovirus.

…and neither have most regular library users…

Probably not, possibly due to having a robust immune system.

Yeah, seriously, don’t worry about them that much. I’ve never caught anything serious from the library and I promise you I touch it more than you do.

To be extra safe, don’t lick any, either.

As a child, I collected stamps, which had passed through people’s dirty hands and got licked in every country in the world, all over Africa, Asia and South America, back when people still got things like polio and syphilis. I often re-licked a hinge on the back of them myself. I never heard of a stamp collector getting sick.

The easiest thing on earth to do is to frighten an American.