I was sitting at the information public service desk.  A patron was standing in front of me, waiting for me to finish checking out a laptop.  He suddenly pointed to several books that I’d pulled from the shelving trucks and set aside on the counter for possible deletion (since they looked pretty beaten-up).  The patron pointed at those books and said, “There’s a bedbug!” and I was, like … oh, FUCK.

Luckily, I have a secret superpower that is very relevant to this situation.

I’m highly skilled at identifying and destroying bedbugs.

Even though I hadn’t actually seen a bedbug in over a year, my natural hunting and killing instincts came flooding back.  Within seconds, I’d found the bug emerging from the space between the book and its cover, and smashed it into bloody oblivion with a slip of scrap paper.  I thanked the patron for pointing out the bug, gave him the laptop, and then started cleanup procedures.  I took the books that had been on the counter, deleted both of them, and stuffed them into some plastic shopping bags that we keep at the desk for patrons who check out more materials than they can comfortably carry.  As soon as I could get away from the desk (this took a few minutes, because the line was very long) I ran to my desk for my bag of emergency cleaning supplies.  This bag contains several cans and bottles of cleaners that I’ve bought over the years to deal with situations that might come up at the library.  Most of them are for removing things like graffiti and dried gum, but one of them is a spray bottle filled with clear liquid, which is 91% isopropyl alcohol.

For future reference, if you think you might have bedbugs, you should get a bunch of this stuff (make sure it’s the 91% high concentration) and put it in an empty spray bottle so that you can spray it on any bugs you see, as well as any place you think they or their eggs might be hiding.

Anyway, I sprayed the alcohol over the counter and cleaned all around the area where the books had been sitting.

I debated for a while where to put the bag containing the books.  First I had it in our discard box, but then it occurred to me that a) the discard box sits there for a while and b) just because I killed one bug didn’t mean that those books were “clean.”  There could have been eggs or bugs in early stages of development hidden in its pages.  I thought about getting the books out of the building as soon as possible, since that was the general advice I got during the many apartment cleanings we endured when we were dealing with bedbugs in our apartment.  But throwing labeled and barcoded library materials into a trash can on the street could cause a whole different set of problems.  Finally, I put the sealed bag into the staff room garbage bag (which is emptied every day), and then I spoke to the custodian about the situation as soon as he came in.  Oh, and during that conversation he told me that several of the more alarming animal species that have been spotted near our library lately — namely, rats and skunks — have also been known to carry bedbugs.  And I was, like … FAN-FRIGGING-TASTIC.

Anyway, I have no idea if this is an isolated incident of one bug in one book, or if this is a fraction of a larger problem.  In any case, our branch manager and our custodial staff are now in the loop.  I will be thinking good strong thoughts on behalf of my staff; I’m on vacation next week, but I know they’ll keep me posted.  And I, in turn, will keep YOU posted.

Oh, and if you’re looking for more information on bedbugs, you can click on the “bedbugs” tag in my blog to see my earlier posts on this subject.  They contain lots of personal anecdotes, product recommendations, websites, and advice that will be very useful for anyone trying to learn more about these little monsters.

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