Looking at my book reviews, it’s pretty obvious that the bulk of the books I’ve been reading were from the library. As a student I don’t have much of a disposable income. Sure, tutoring gives me some extra cash but with clothes and food to pay for, I can’t buy every book I want to read. This is why libraries have become sort of a second home to me. In fact, ever since at the age of eight I first became acquainted with the concept of public libraries that allowed me to borrow books and read them, I have come to see them as havens. But I digress. I’ll talk about my love for libraries another time. What I’m interested in is how hygiene of library books affects readers’ lives.
After I found out about the cocaine and herpes virus that professors detected in a couple of library books>, I was greatly disturbed. I shuddered, grimaced, and then rejoiced for I have never touched a copy of the affected title in my life. But it’s a popular book. Fifty Shades of Grey, that is. Popular books pass through many more hands than the dusty old books that have been sitting in sad corners for decades. The more people touch a book, the higher the chances of bacteria and microbes getting stuck to those pages. This is why I am extremely reluctant to pick up books that are stained and dogeared. I get very grossed out. But if books look fairly well taken care of, I will still pick them up. I just don’t read them in bed. Most of the time I do remember to wipe the covers as well, since they do get stacked onto the desk in my bedroom. But that clearly is not enough.
This leads me to wonder what can be done to keep these books clean. I mean, come to think of it, even a well-preserved library book that looks like new might just house my next flu bug. I have no idea how long flu bugs can survive outside of human bodies but I do remember that during the SARS outbreak in 2003, my dad would take my library books at the door and put them away for a couple of days, just in case any residues were on or in them. Would it be paranoia to do that when there are no epidemics?
Once in a while I manage to reserve new books before they even hit the shelves, so I know I’m the first to read those library books when I borrow them. I have to pay a small reservation fee but compared to actually buying those books, I save about 90% of the purchase cost. This is particularly ideal for books I really want to read but don’t necessarily feel like I have to own. Besides knowing I’m the first to read those books, and revelling in the newness them, the clean freak in me relishes the fact that the pages between those covers have been untouched and so are almost certainly clear of any filth.
Right now I’m so appropriately grossed out, I might just avoid library books for a while. Good thing for exams since I don’t have all that much time to read now, so there won’t be that great a temptation to pick up a library book. But really, I don’t think I’ve ever contracted anything from reading library books and according to the news reports about Fifty Shades of Grey, reading those copies is harmless to library patrons. But still, I think psychological scarring is a possibility with that kind of news.