100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

School Librarian Corner: Dirty Books. No, Literally, Dirty Books


The other day I read a Facebook post from a fellow school librarian in the midst of an end-of-the-year inventory. This librarian said it gets kind of gross when you touch all the books in the library.

Tell me about it. If you’ve ever handled a bunch of library books, you can probably identify. Your hands don’t always end up looking dirty, per say, but it definitely feels like you’re wearing invisible germ-gloves and if you don’t wash them pretty soon you’re tempting fate. I’ve even joked about this in the past.

So I guess this post is asking two things:

1. Does this happen to you?

2. Do you ever do anything to de-germify books?

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Katy Henderson says:

    I’m in a public library, so maybe different from the school library situation? I feel like I’m always pulling books with dirty covers from the shelving carts and having volunteers clean them with Windex. Don’t know if that kills the germs, but it helps them look better. We also wipe down board books periodically with Clorox wipes, since those are more likely to be chewed on!

    • Travis Jonker says:

      This is good information. We’ve talked about doing this sort of thing, but never have. Thanks for sharing the public librarian perspective!

  2. Clara Hendricks says:

    Also a public librarian perspective- we wipe down majorly “grubby” books, especially those going on display. Thank goodness for plastic covers! But also constant hand washing is a must.

  3. 1. YES
    2. Public library – as returned books are organized before shelving, staff clean any that look/feel dirty with an all-purpose cleaner and paper towels. Less about germs and more about visible dirt.

  4. Mary Clark says:

    I just spent most of my morning moving middle school core novels in our textbook room. I wore gloves and a mask, because yesterday I found mouse droppings. And nibbled books. My new copies of Of Mice and Men! How did they know? (And those are getting Cloroxed!)

  5. 1. Yes!
    2. We wipe down EVERY book that gets returned with Clorox wipes, every single time!

  6. When I started my public library career 7 years ago, when we did our weeding we would wipe down each book that we were keeping with a clorox wipes, but we stopped that practice as it took a long time and was costly, but man for a brief time those books were beautiful and fairly germ free!

  7. Michelle says:

    At my public library branch, if any book cover feels grimy, I’ll wipe it down with a paper towel and Clorox sanitizing spray.