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REopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM) Project

By: Robert Mead, State Law Librarian & Director of the Washington State Law Library, Washington Supreme Court

The Battelle Memorial Institute is a science and technology non-profit with the mission to “translate scientific discovery and technology advances into societal benefits.” This is exactly what they are doing in the REALM Project in partnership with the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services and the OCLC. REALM stands for Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums and in the project, the partners produce scientific information about the safest way to handle materials to mitigate staff and patron exposure to COVID-19 in archives, libraries, and museums.

Battelle is conducting the natural attenuation studies to determine how long the virus can survive on different materials found in archives, libraries, and museums. The studies are done at standard room temperature and humidity. They have released four study summaries and are in the process of the fifth study to determine the viability of the virus on leather bookbinding, cotton upholstery and drapes, vinyl upholstery, and nylon webbing.

The results of Test Four were released on September 3, 2020. Battelle determined that stacked books, including hardcover, softcover, and plastic bindings, as well as DVD cases can harbor the SARS-Cov-2 virus for at least six days of quarantine. Stacking prolongs the survivability of the virus.

The previous studies of unstacked materials found virus survival times of 3 to 5 days, depending on the materials. The studies are vital for determining how long to quarantine books and other circulating items after use in order to keep libraries safe as we begin to continue to cautiously reopen.

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