Library Adds Autorenewal and Extends Quarantines for Checked Out Items

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Library Adds Autorenewal and Extends Quarantines for Checked Out Items

Measures reduce required trips to Library and incorporate new research on COVID-19 and Library materials

The DC Public Library is implementing two new practices in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Library will automatically renew items currently checked out and has also extended the quarantine period for materials returned to the library from 72 hours to 96 hours. 
Starting Saturday, books and other physical items borrowed from the Library will automatically renew if no other customer is waiting for that title or the item hasn’t already been renewed nine times. Currently, 200,000 items that were checked out when the Library closed in March are due back Saturday, August 1. The autorenewal lowers the number of items coming back at once and reduces the number of people who need to visit a Library to return items. The Library will send email notices informing customers that an item was renewed and/or that an item needs to be returned.

This 96-hour quarantine window is based on an ongoing study, called the REALM (Reopening Archives, Libraries and Museums) study, which is investigating how long the COVID-19 virus survives on materials that are prevalent in libraries. The study found the virus was not detectable on the kinds of materials that customers borrow from the DC Public Library after four days. While a previous study found that COVID-19 was not detectable on the kinds of materials available at the DC Public Library after 72 hours, this change is being made out of an abundance of caution. 

This autorenewal and new materials quarantine policy expands the safety measures implemented by the Library in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other measures include:
Closing reading rooms and outdoor terraces to the public;

  • Requiring customers and staff to wear a face mask or covering and practice at least 6-feet social distancing at library locations;
  • Suspending all meeting or study room reservations;
  • Limiting the number of people allowed in Library locations;
  • Replacing customer book browsing with staff searches for materials; and
  • Reducing the number of public computers available and ensuring 6 feet of space between each available computer.
  • Cleaning high-touched areas including public computers, restrooms, doorknobs and handles, chairs, and tables throughout the day and specifically 2 pm – 3 pm daily when library locations are closed.

The Library will continue monitoring guidance on advanced safety measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and adopt that research into its practices. 

The REALM study is being conducted by OCLC, a nonprofit global library cooperative, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle, a global research and development organization. They aim to create and distribute science-based, authoritative information on how long COVID-19 survives on materials that are prevalent in libraries, archives, and museums.    

Because the District’s Public Health Emergency remains in effect, Library service is being restored in phases. This approach allows the Library to ensure the safety of customers and staff.  More information on the District’s response to COVID-19 is available at