Denver Public Library Book Return infested with bed bugs

by nobugsonme on September 23, 2009 · 8 comments

in bed bug dilemmas, bed bug feces, bed bugs, bed bugs in the workplace, bedbugs, books, colorado, denver, libraries, Project Gutenberg, senior housing, social services, spread of bed bugs

The Denver Public Library’s book return drop box was infested with bed bugs, apparently by a single heavy user of the library’s services.  CBS4 in Denver reported that

Library workers handling the books left in the drop box noticed the bugs first.

“When we were returning those materials back in to get them off of his card, some of the bugs fell out,” said Celeste Jackson.

The books were not your typical popular fiction. They are described as volumes of rare classic literature. The books are not the property of the Denver Public Library. They’re part of the inter-library loan system. Those books have been fumigated and the library quarantined.

The library said the customer was aware of the problem.

“We said, sir we think you may have a problem and we’re trying to keep this from becoming … something that really is throughout the library system,” Jackson said.

Jackson said after the man was informed he returned more books with bedbugs.

[Emphasis mine.]

He knew he had bed bugs, he knew he was transmitting them to the library, and he continued doing so.

The infested books could have been rendered bed bug-free, but their pages were stained so heavily by bed bug droppings that they had to be destroyed.  He’s now been banned from the library and fined the $12,000 for the 31 ruined rare books.

I love that this story hit the news, because it is important for people to see that bed bugs can spread by all kinds of conduits — including ones so seemingly innocent as a library book.

Has the infestation been smaller — if bed bugs had not fallen out of books which were being checked back into the library — it may not have been noticed, and the books may have been reshelved.

If this had occurred, depending how rarely these tomes get pulled off the shelf, the bed bugs may have set off to bite others, perhaps in the library itself.

(We can only hope that items the man returned previously to the discovery did not contain bed bugs, perhaps to a less noticeable degree.)

It’s important to note also that there are others, like this man, who know they have bed bugs and — for whatever reason — appear to not be getting help.

Moreover, this man was not concerned about inflicting the problem on others.

What should happen when strangers find out someone is living with this problem — such a severe problem that they are easily transmitting it around town?

Should social services be called out?

The police?

Whatever department in Denver inspects housing for inhabitability?

What do you think?

Check out the rest of the article and video: Unwanted Visitors Found In Library Book Return – cbs4denver.com.

Update (9/24):

And now ABC7 in Denver reports the identity of the man who returned the books to the library.

The infected books came from 69-year-old Denver resident Roger Goffeney. He checks out historic books, some 200 years old, and helps archive them online in an effort called the Gutenberg Project.

When he brought a few of the rare books back, bed bugs from his downtown apartment hitched a ride. Goffeney said the landlord is to blame. Goffeney lives at Cathedral Plaza, which is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver.

“We’ve always had some kind of insect infestation, but it’s never been to this degree,” Goffeney said of the building where he lives.

Still, Goffeney said he didn’t think it was a big deal.

“I thought that they could easily be cleaned if they had discovered that to be the problem,” Goffeney said.

Cathedral Plaza is one of the Denver senior housing properties listed on the Archdiocesan Housing website.

ABC7 in Denver notes that Goffeney is considering filing a lawsuit to get his library privileges back.

Project Gutenberg is an effort to get books out of copyright online, so everyone with access to the internet can read them for free.  Project Gutenberg volunteers work to preserve literature.

Susan Greene wrote in the Denver Post that

Goffeney takes no responsibility for the blight, nor for fines he says should be paid by his lousy landlord. He sees little irony in the fact that his efforts to save world literature have resulted in book burning.

“Huh . . .,” he says. “I guess I’ve never thought of it like that.”

Even where landlords are responsible for treatment for bed bugs, tenants must participate both by disclosing the problem in their unit, by preparing for treatment, and by following up afterwards.  It’s unclear at this time whether Goffeney has received bed bug treatment, or if the landlord knows about and is attempting to fix the problem.

I guess now we’re waiting until the press hears from the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver?

You can read other stories about bed bugs in libraries and library books here.

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1 Eric September 24, 2009 at 11:52 am

Oh man… I was already concerned that a library book may have been the origin of my bed bug problem.

2 TD September 24, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Also: in a piece about this located on TheDenverChannel.com, the man in question was quoted as saying he had no intention to pay back “a dime” for the fees incurred, despite the fact that his carelessness inflicted not only the steep replacement and treatment fees, but possibly thousands of to-be-spent dollars for anyone who might have caught the bugs through the library. Horrifying.

3 cilecto September 24, 2009 at 12:17 pm

NoBugs, now you’re scaring me!

4 Chris September 24, 2009 at 8:59 pm

All of these bugs are spreading ever were it a problem
and we all need to check what goes in are house
be very careful because once you have bed bugs and started finding
them it to late it a problem. So be very careful

5 nobugsonme September 25, 2009 at 12:39 am

See latest update to post above.

6 nobugsonme September 25, 2009 at 1:22 am

cilecto, your gravatar scares me! ;-)

7 kirads09 March 29, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I live in Denver. I used to check out books from this library all the time. Since this happened, I stopped cold. Just too scared there might be something I could still bring home.

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