Librarians are quarantining books between borrowers resulting in a shortage. Why aren’t these books all available online? The technology exists for every book to be available to anyone.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

Textbooks in Short Supply Amid COVID Quarantines

In the run-up to exams and midterms, the library at Roger Williams University is often busy with students trying to borrow textbooks and squeeze in some last-minute studying.

Access to these materials is always limited because the number of textbooks available is small. But this semester, the imbalance between supply and demand is far worse than usual, said Lindsey Gumb, assistant professor and scholarly communications librarian at Roger Williams, a private liberal arts college in Rhode Island where students are back on campus this semester and participating in hybrid instruction.

As a safety precaution to slow the potential spread of COVID-19, librarians at Roger Williams are quarantining all returned print materials for 72 hours before making them available again.

The quarantining system is simple. When a book is returned to the library, a librarian wearing gloves and a mask places it on the lower shelf of a cart. The next day, the book is moved up a shelf. On the third day, the book is moved to the top shelf. The following day it is returned to the stacks.

An ongoing research project called Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums, or REALM, is investigating how long the COVID-19 virus survives on print materials, including hard and soft book covers and inside pages. The project is a collaboration between the OCLC, a global library collaborative; the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent federal agency that provides grants to libraries; and Battelle, a nonprofit research and development organization.


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