Libraries with bed bugs (Pace University is the latest)

by nobugsonme on October 11, 2011 · 2 comments

in bed bug epidemic, bed bugs, bed bugs in colleges, libraries, spread of bed bugs

Gothamist says it received a tip that the Pace University Library in lower Manhattan was closed yesterday for bed bug treatment.

In Bedbugs Shut Down Pace University Library, Gothamist’s John Del Signore writes:

A student who works in the Henry Birnbaum Library at Pace University tells us the library has been shut down so that it can be treated for bedbugs. Our tipster tells us, ‘I got kicked out of work early because of an ’emergency closing’ of the library. I told the librarian i needed a specific reason to give my boss as to why they were closing, and she said ‘Don’t tell anyone this,’ and then whispered ‘bed bugs.’ ‘ College kids: they just can’t keep their traps shut!

The library, which is usually open until 11 p.m. on Monday nights, is currently closed, according to multiple reports. (Calls to the library went unanswered.)

Bed bugs in a library may have come in with users, staff, or materials.  If this story is true, it would be unfortunate if officials are keeping the story hush-hush.

Bed bugs likely came into the library with people and they may have gone home with some too.  Library users need to be aware of the possibility of bed bugs in the library, so they can be alert should more bed bugs appear later.  They also need to check their homes, since it’s not uncommon to have bed bugs and not discover this for a while.

In a college setting, it should be considered whether dorms or classrooms are also infested.

Last year, bed bugs were found in Community College of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) classrooms, and a University of Pittsburgh dorm, among others. Since the fall 2011 semester started, Horry-Georgetown Technical College in North Carolina was treated for bed bugs, and the University of Ottawa and Carleton University in Canada have both had bed bug problems in student housing.

If other areas of a university are infested, the problem can spread from place to place.  Of course, off-campus housing puts students at risk, as well as staff and faculty.

If the Gothamist story is true, Pace is not alone in having bed bug problems in their library. Last spring, bed bugs also caused havoc in the Columbia University library, a story which was not widely publicized.  Indiana University had them in library offices last year.

Of course, public libraries are also experiencing bed bug problems, most recently in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Colorado.  Edmonton, Cincinnati, and New York City have also had well-publicized bed bug cases in public libraries.

If you run a library:

  • Talk to a bed bug expert and have them train your staff to recognize signs of bed bugs. Such training apparently helped Longmont, Colorado public librarians detect their bed bug infestation.
  • Make a plan for when bed bugs are found (again, consulting an expert).  Don’t wait until you have a problem!
  • Consider how you will isolate and treat books and furniture showing signs of bed bugs. Although they may not be appropriate for very delicate rare books, a Packtite or Packtite Closet might help treat most books, papers, or smaller furniture like chairs at a low cost.  For more serious problems, an Insect Inferno or Fume Cube could be used to treat larger amounts of books and furniture on-site with heat or Vikane gas, respectively.
  • Assume that at some point, someone will bring bed bugs into your library. So far, a number of libraries seem to have had problems with chairs becoming infested.  In one notable case in Denver, the book drop was infested by a heavy library user with a serious bed bug problem.  Rare books were unfortunately destroyed, in that case.

Update (10/11/2011):

The morning after this post was written, Gothamist wrote that Pace had confirmed the rumor, noting that the bed bugs were found in a “back room” and believed to be completely gone now.

Nearly every public report of bed bugs seems to be accompanied by a report that the problem is thought to be gone the same day, and these declarations can be incorrect.  Remember Longmont?

Someone is going to point out that the Longmont bed bugs were scattered across multiple chairs, apparently tracked around by one or more library users.  However, even if the Pace problem was confined to an employee area (as the term “back room” implied), someone or something brought those bed bugs in, and if the source is not eliminated, the problem may recur.

Pace says their library was declared bed bug free by a canine scent detection unit in August. But canine scent detection is not 100% accurate and a recent study discussed at the 2011 North American Bed Bug Summit a few weeks ago suggests they may be much less so than was previously thought.  (In Longmont, chairs previously declared bed bug free by the k9s were found to have a problem weeks later.)

Anyway, it does sound like Pace already had a bed bug plan in place, and that is very good news. I do hope this problem is cleared.

1 Katherine October 12, 2011 at 10:20 am

I found this extremely interesting because of recent news media reporting of libraries in Mesa, AZ being closed due to BBs.

They reported that after spraying and changing out the chairs from cloth to plastic that it was ok to return to the library.

My mind says probably not. They didn’t remove the carpet for one thing and that would house them also and of course from everything I have read about BBs they go into cracks and wall sockets and baseboards and just think of all the likely and unlikely places to hide in a library.

If it takes people in homes months and years to get rid of them what makes a library think they have done it in one spraying?


2 Shelly B October 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Interesting story. I found bedbugs in one of the chairs in the common area of my local library (The Miami Beach Regional Library – 227 22nd Street Miami Beach, Florida) and when I brought it to the attention of the staff they brushed me off. I wrote letters to the city and the library management. I finally received an email back from them (a month later) letting me know they removed the chair. They responded to me by saying there was no money for replacing the fabric chairs with wood or anything else so that was the best they could do. What a joke. At least, this library is making an actual effort. Maybe things will change when the situation becomes more serious and the bedbugs are a major epidemic in the entire city. Oh well!

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