Germophobe’s Guide to Library Books

I love libraries. I love books. I love having access to books from libraries for free. And so do lots of other people.

I am the type of person who always has hand sanitizer in her bag. I also keep a little bottle of rubbing alcohol in my car and one next to my bed. I don’t like when my hands or feet feel dirty (which I feel like sometimes even after taking a shower) , so I’ll spray them with a bit of alcohol before bed, and I wipe the seat before using the bathroom in my own home (other people live here too).

That being said, you can imagine that I feel some type of way about reading books other people have had their hands on, have placed on various surfaces, have taken into their own bathrooms…are you getting the picture? Okay.

So here’s what I do when I borrow a book from my local library (If you have a better way, please let me know):

First things first. I wipe down the outside of the book with rubbing alcohol and a napkin. Sometimes I’ll do it as soon as I get in my car after leaving the library, sometimes I wait until I get home.

Second. I turn the book over and shake it out gently, also flipping through the pages to make sure nothing gross is stuck in there (I’ve found old candy wrappers that someone else probably used as a bookmark, I’ve found crumbs, and there may have also been a squished little bug once or twice.). Then I lay the book open and flip through it again to make sure there’s nothing jammed into the spine or that needs to be wiped off the pages.

Third. I lightly mist the pages of the book with rubbing alcohol as I flip through them quickly. We’re not wetting the pages here, and there shouldn’t be any wet spots left either—we don’t want to cause any damage. This is probably more mental than anything, but it makes me feel better.

Fourth. I wash my hands after every reading session. While I’m reading I make sure not to touch my face or handle food.

In general, I don’t do anything with, or to, the book that I wouldn’t want anyone else to do (even though I know other people most certainly do all of these things and more). I don’t take books to the bathroom with me (that’s what smart phones are for, and even that gets an alcohol wipe when I’m done). I don’t eat or drink directly over the book. I certainly do not lick my finger to turn the page (just bear the extra couple seconds people!).

I do these things with every book I get from the library. Sometimes I do it with books I buy as well, especially wiping the covers. I really wish there was a more efficient way to completely sanitize books from the library.

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a detailed guide, and it certainly isn’t for anyone with an extreme phobia, just a little of what I do to feel better about community books.

If you have any tips for sanitizing books in a way that makes you feel more comfortable touching them after other people have had them, or if you have scientific proof that germs do not live on the pages of books, share them below!

Happy Reading!


P.S. We’ll see you in a couple days for our Short Story Thursday, and next week we’re taking a mental heath break.  We’ll be back the first week of June!



When Your Library Doesn’t Have It

So I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m trying really hard not to buy books that I can access for free, especially this year. I’m trying to curb my book junky-ism by being really selective about what I decide to buy, and I’ve been using my local library a lot since January.

This is good for several reasons, but the most important reasons are:

  1. I’m not spending money on books I may not want to keep (which leaves more money for french fries…or my savings account), and
  2. I’m supporting my local libraries.

Libraries are really cool, and if you ever had to grow up without available discretionary funds to buy all your books, you may know how important libraries are for providing access to information. Also, they have lots of programs for people of all ages, and if you don’t see something you like, you can always suggest it (maybe even volunteer to teach a class?).

So! I’ve been using my local library system for all the books I’ve read so far this year. If one branch didn’t have a particular book, I’d request it from another branch through ILL (Inter-Library Loan), and that worked out really well for the first half of my reading list (I even rearranged the order of my reading list so I was reading the books available at my library first).

However, none of the books on the second half of my reading list are available through my local library system. So what’s a girl to do??

Well, if you’re in a similar situation, I’ve got some suggestions that may, or may not, work for you.

  1. Check the Library’s OverDrive (or other online library app) account. It might be a long shot, but they have digital books that aren’t necessarily in the physical collection and you may find what you’re looking for (you can also suggest your library purchase the book, which would be helpful to someone else in the future).
  2. Check a neighboring county library system. If they have what you’re looking for, ask a friend or family member to borrow it for you. Just make sure you return it to them in the same condition you received it and on time so they don’t get charged any fees!
  3. Clear your schedule for a day and read the book at a neighboring county library. You can still use a lot of services at a library even if you don’t qualify to get a card because you live in a different area of town.
  4. Ask around! Maybe someone you know has a copy that you can borrow.
  5. Revise your reading list. Find a title that is available at your local library until you can access the book you’re looking for.
  6. If you really want it, and you really can’t find it anywhere (or you just really want it), then buy it.

Unfortunately for me, the people I know who live in the next county do not have library cards (it really is a shame), so I had to resort to the last option. So far, I’ve only bought two books, and they are two that I’m definitely going to read and definitely going to keep (at least that’s what I told myself when I confirmed my order).

As for the rest of the books on my list…they are still pending. A former co-worker and her daughter decided to join me on my reading journey, so we’re revising my original reading list to add things they want to read as well. It’s possible some of the books they add to the list will be available at my local library and I won’t have to buy many more. If that’s the case, then we’re winning!

Now you have some ideas on how to access books your local library doesn’t carry. I hope this has helped you a little (or a lot!). And if you have more suggestions to add, please leave them in the comments. Learning all the ways to access free books is really helpful for a lot of people.

If you don’t have a library card, I encourage you to get one. If you have children, I encourage you to get them library cards as well. Teach them how to appreciate and use the resources libraries have available to them, and lead by example. The more they see you do it, the more they’ll want to do it too!

Speaking from experience, it makes a world of difference!

Happy reading!