September 3, 2020

Scientists Find Virus Still Detectable After Six Days on Four Common Library Materials When Stacked

Stack of books

Washington, DC—Scientists have found that the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 is still detectable after six days on four common library materials when they are stacked, which is a significantly longer attenuation period than had been detected on similar materials when they were not stacked.

The findings are part of the REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project designed to generate scientific information to support the handling of core library, museum, and archival materials as these institutions begin to resume operations and reopen to the public. Scientists at Battelle have now completed four separate tests on groups of commonly found and frequently handled materials in these institutions.

In the most recent test, scientists tested four materials similar to those in the first test group—the cover of hardcover books (buckram cloth), the cover of softback books, a DVD case, and mylar protective book cover jackets—only this time, the materials were stacked to simulate common storage configurations in libraries and archives. While the virus was not detectable on the materials laid flat after three days in the first test, the virus was still detectable on similar materials after six days when the materials were stacked. (See Test 4 results.)

"The REALM project continues to produce results about the coronavirus and how it interacts with library and museum materials,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “This fourth set of research findings will help librarians and museum professionals continue to offer services and begin to welcome patrons back to public spaces. This ongoing research helps provide an up-to-date and fuller understanding of the virus so that libraries and museums can develop and implement protocols with care in service to their communities."

“There is still a great deal that we don’t know about the coronavirus and its spread,” said Skip Prichard, OCLC President and CEO. “Our goal is to add to this knowledge in ways that help libraries, archives and museums plan with greater confidence as they re-open and put in place processes to better protect their users and their staffs.”

“The findings in this latest test strengthen the need for the continued coronavirus research we are conducting,” said Will Richter, Principal Research Scientist at Battelle and a leader of the research being done for the REALM project. “We have to approach each situation with an open mind and determine next steps based on the data generated.”

The REALM project is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal funding for museums and libraries; and OCLC, a nonprofit library technology and research organization; in partnership with Battelle, a not-for-profit global scientific research and development organization.

Project updates are posted at as they become available. Those interested can also sign up through the project website to receive timely email updates when new information is released.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Battelle
Every day, the people of Battelle apply science and technology to solving what matters most. At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries. For more information, visit

About OCLC
OCLC is a nonprofit global library cooperative providing shared technology services, original research and community programs so that libraries can better fuel learning, research and innovation. Through OCLC, member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, a comprehensive global network of data about library collections and services. Libraries gain efficiencies through OCLC’s WorldShare, a complete set of library management applications and services built on an open, cloud-based platform. It is through collaboration and sharing of the world’s collected knowledge that libraries can help people find answers they need to solve problems. Together as OCLC, member libraries, staff and partners make breakthroughs possible.

Media Contacts:
: Elizabeth Holtan at or (202) 330-6193
OCLC: Bob Murphy at or (614) 761-5136
Battelle: T.R. Massey at or (614) 424-5544; (614) 202-7553 mobile