Libraries in Japan use UV to disinfect books

UV sterilizing machine for books. Picture by Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters

Libraries in Japan have began acquiring UV (ultra-violet) machines to sterilize and disinfect books borrowed and returned. The machine takes 30 seconds to sterilize a book and it also has a feature that helps get rid of dust from the books.

One such machine was installed in the Narimasu Library in Itabashi, Tokyo in 2018 but has seen more usage this year due to the pandemic.

Library users can use it upon borrowing a book and when returning it. However, this is not required.

The UV machines were included in the libraries to assure patrons that books they are using are safe for use. 

However, such UV machines are not necessary to 'disinfect' books from COVID-19. There is research that points out that the virus can live on surfaces for up to 2-3 days, while it can last for 24 hours on paper and cardboard (Van Doremalen, et al., 2020). Some libraries are practicing 'book quarantines' - isolating returned books in a separate area for 24 hours or more before returning them to the shelves.

Tarrant, J. & Hoon, K.K. (2020 December 9). Japanese libraries hope UV machine gives visitors peace of mind.

Van Doremalen, N., Bushmaker, T., Morris, D. H., Holbrook, M. G., Gamble, A., Williamson, B. N., ... & Lloyd-Smith, J. O. (2020). Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(16), 1564-1567.

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